Holy Saturday: A Reflection for Unbelievers and the Hopeless, or Any Hurt by Life

Today is Holy Saturday, that period of mourning, disillusionment, anger, fear, and other heart-wrenching emotions that occurs between our recognizing the realities of injustices and tragedies of the past and present, and our harboring the hopes for life and resurrection that hang on tenuously, if at all, for a better future.

Holy Saturday is a time that tests our faith; if we have any faith left to test – shoving in our faces realities we would have rather not have admitted, rather not have seen, rather not have felt, and rather not have experienced. It tests whether we will even have faith in faith itself; and leaves us wondering whether we have passed or failed the exam, no matter what we decided about the having or dispensing with faith.

Is it worth having faith in anything uplifting and life-enhancing when it is so evident that it can all be taken away in the matter of some torturous hours that places a crown of thorns on our naivety, lashes our trust in humanity until we can no longer bear the suffering, and then mocks us for our inability to carry our crosses as if we had not just been irreparably victimized?

How exhausting it can be to hold on to faith when that which you have faith in has been vanquished…when it has been pillaged by all that you have always proclaimed was not as strong as hope, faith, and love…when it has been executed cruelly and mercilessly crucified and desecrated for all the world to see.

When that which you have cherished most seems to have died and left you abandoned to face the barbarities of life you cannot explain or overcome, and you feel isolated, alone, and without any possibility for comfort, this is the reality of Holy Saturday – a reality that too often feels like the new normal in a world in which we have come to distrust and has left us disillusioned.

Holy Saturday, whatever else we may believe about it, is a metaphor about what it is to live in the world when we have dreams dashed and ideals eviscerated. It is that liminal time between when our hopes for a better world are destroyed and when a resurrection of spirit that we may wish for, but never see coming, leaves us feeling drained, empty, hopeless, and devoid of meaning and purpose.

We all experience Holy Saturdays in our lives. And sometimes they continue without the apparent possibility of stoppage. We may know others who have experienced this reality – and who committed suicide, turned to drugs or alcohol or sex or some other addiction to soothe the wounds, if only for the moment, or developed neuroses. We dare not judge them if we have experienced the fullness of Holy Saturday in our own lives; for we well know how close we were to having the same outcomes.

We all experience Holy Saturdays differently. Some gather with friends, family, or even the company of strangers just so we do not have to feel alone in our despair. Others, like Thomas, need to get out and be by ourselves – feeling the oppression of having one’s own anxieties compounded by those around us. But Holy Saturdays are essential for us taking any step towards the future which are not the choice to live in irreality by avoidance, denial, and suppression – the penultimate steps to insanity. How we respond to the Holy Saturdays of our lives will determine how we encounter reality with the rest of our lives – for better, or for worse.

Those who live in the midst of Holy Saturday understand, like no truth-denier ever can, that there is no platitude that can make things better. “Just have faith,” “things will get better,” “the sun will rise again,” “you’ve got to grow thick-skin,” “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” and other such evasions of reality are seen as shallow, hollow, or even detrimental to our current circumstances. These are the words of those who don’t have the strength of spirit or character to deal honestly with reality, yours or their own. They speak such words to deflect the real emotions they, too, are feeling but can’t allow themselves to experience because of what they fear will happen to them if they do.

If you are still reading this, you know what I mean. Those who stopped reading sometime earlier may never know, for a life of illusions has been their choice to cope with what they don’t believe they have the strength or fortitude in which to cope. Who knows which way is better?

These thoughts I give to you – you who will willingly endure the every thought, emotion, and soul-ravaging experience of Holy Saturday by confronting it honestly and forthrightly because you can walk no other way. Maybe reading these words will make you feel less alone; will let you know there is someone else in the world, even if you never meet them in person, who experiences reality in a similar way which you do yourself.

Of course, this is not enough to solve all the problems that plague our lives. It doesn’t change the past, or resolve the future. But then if Holy Saturdays teach us anything, it is that the wishes for the past to be changed or the future to be resolved are never really options for us in life. We have to deal with the present as it is, fully aware that things may never get better, and that we may never be truly happy, at peace, or feel that it all had an ultimate purpose or redeeming meaning. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Who knows? You and I know we never will; not with any assurance or guarantee.

Yes, there are those who prefer to never experience a Holy Saturday that life inevitably invites us to encounter, much less a Friday in which goodness itself is crucified. They prefer to skip from a celebration of Palm Sunday to the rejoicing of Easter as if everything in between is unworthy of our attention. But you and I both know that we can never know the true hope of Palm Sunday anticipation or the genuine joy of Easter resurrection if we haven’t been willing to endure the frightening Fridays and linger in the unsated Saturdays that transform our perspectives on life.

You and I, inexplicably, grab hold of the Holy Saturdayness of life, and refuse to let it go until we have learned how to get past it, or through it, or around it, or under it; or in our dreams, over it. We will, like Jacob, wrestle with every challenge to our understanding of the world until we gain some insight that helps us carry on with life – even if it be with a limp. Like Thomas, that doubt-filled disciple of truth-seeking, we will not defer to illusions. We will not give credence to lies that are denials to what we have seen with our own eyes, heard with our own ears, tasted with our own mouths, smelled with our own nose, touched with our own hands, or felt with our own heart and soul. We’d rather be beaten on the battlefield of banality than to be victors empowered by glorious untruths. We can’t “roll” any other way. Untruth is the stone we will find a way to roll away, even if what we find inside the tomb is our own corpse.

Whether or not our lives have a greater purpose or our endowed with cosmic meaning, we do not know – and may never know. But there is something about knowing that truth of unknowing that reformulates how we look at life. It either weakens or strengthens us. We either give up trying, or we instead stubbornly, resiliently, or perhaps defiantly resolve to keep on trying with no foreknowledge of how things will turn out.

We live, if we choose to live at all, with the mystery of what may be – making the best choices we know how to make in the moment, even if we regret our ignorance with hindsight. We decide, not knowing the better way, to choose a way – diverting from it only when we become convinced through thorough investigation that there might be a better way. We make our choices, and live with them – joys and sufferings alike. We have given up on winning at life, and instead decided to be as significant in life as we can with what time and talent allow us to do, hopefully having a positive effect on others – though we may never know how or to what extent. Our gift of giving may be multiplied in the lives of others; or we may have to be content that our altruism helped only us to get through yet another day.

So dear reader, I offer you no answers on how to give you success in dealing with the Holy Saturdays of life. In my quiet desperation, I may pray for a Sunday resurrection; but even it if comes, I well know I will have to encounter still more Holy Saturdays – never knowing if I will make it through another one. If you are still reading, if you have listened and affirmed even an iota of truth in these words I write on your behalf, then perhaps that is enough to help me to get through this Holy Saturday – and hopefully you too. Sharing the truths we think we’ve found, deluded as we may be, is still an act of kindness, of caring, of compassion, and even of mercy in a world filled with Holy Saturdays.

Blessings may we be; no matter how insignificant.

– Rev. Bret S. Myers, 4/16/2022

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