We spend most of our lives in Holy Saturday.
For the most, part our daily lives are not moments of sheer, abject terror—like Good Friday. Nor are they moments of delirious exaltation—like Easter Sunday. Rather, we are often in the “middle time,” as the disciples were. Disappointed, confused, worried, sad, anxious about all sorts of things. Waiting.
I’ve always wanted to know more about what the disciples were doing behind those closed doors on Holy Saturday. What were they talking about? Could they even contain their worry? Certainly they were frightened of the Roman authorities. If they had killed our leader, they probably asked themselves, could we be far behind? If even Jesus of Nazareth, with all his powers and all his followers, could not escape the cross, what hope is there for us?
Perhaps they were arguing over the meaning of his death as well. How could things have gone so terribly wrong? We saw him do all the miracles! We saw him still the sea and raise that little girl, and even Lazarus from the dead! How could he die like that—like a common criminal? Perhaps they were even sniping among themselves. You let him down! You betrayed him! You ran away!
Were there among the disciples, though, any who were searching for meaning in his suffering? Were there any who read through the Scriptures? And were there any—any?—who expected what would happen the next morning? Did they even know that they were waiting?
I like this George de la Tour painting of “The Penitent Magdalene” for that reason. Now I know that Mary Magdalene has been one of the most maligned women in all of Christian history. She was not a prostitute, but instead a woman from whom Jesus cast out “seven demons.” (Later writers—and a pope—conflated her with a prostitute in the Gospels.) So she may not have had much to repent at all. Still, I like de la Tour’s painting as an emblem of waiting. She is clearly thinking back over something. Perhaps, I like to think, the disciples on Holy Saturday were not just terrified, but pensive. What did it all mean?
Most of our lives are spent waiting and hoping. But we are in a different position than were the terrified disciples on Holy Saturday. We in the midst of our waiting know the end of the story. We know that our Redeemer lives. We know to expect Resurrections great and small in our lives. And we know that our waiting will never be in vain.
James Martin, SJ