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Rt Revd Sarah Clark, Bishop of Jarrow

Holy Saturday, the silent day, the tomb day.  Yesterday’s trauma closes with Jesus’ body sealed in the tomb, and the silence of sabbath resting on the Jerusalem.  The gospels have no words for what we call Holy Saturday.  Their story stops with a simple a full stop on Friday evening.  Friday turns into Saturday, Saturday into Sunday without a single word inked onto the page. The gospel writers put down their pens, wordless for the day that connects darkness of Jesus’ s death on Good Friday and Easter’s dawn revealing the Risen Jesus rising recreation.  We don’t know why though perhaps there are no words when the Word made flesh lies dead.  

When my first spiritual director retired from his parish after 22 years he asked for an ikon to be written as his gift from the spirituality group I was part of. He asked for an ikon of Holy Saturday.  It was a simple scene on the right is the tomb of Jesus, the stone firmly rolled against the entrance. On the left just leaving the picture are the women who have seen where the body is laid.  There is nothing else to see. This is what he intended to pray with in those first months of retirement, when a way of life had come to an end, was dead and the life he hoped would come was not yet birthed.   He prayed with the silence of the second day – waiting, watching, and trusting that though he could not see in the hiddenness Love’s was at work recreating.  I have not seen that ikon for over ten years yet I have never forgotten it.  It helped me as I learnt my own hard truths of those days I knew as Holy Saturday when there has been death – dreams, projects, relationships, beliefs, loved ones and the future seems impossible and nothing I can do can change that.  It is out of my power. Another must do it. I have struggled to live those times.

Yet today is Holy Saturday, not despairing Saturday. It is the second day but there a third day to come. It is Holy because this day is about the Holy One who we name God.  The resurrection of Jesus is never described, not witnessed, it is only discovered by Mary in the dark before dawn. The new impossible life we long for is wrought in the darkness, in the silence, in the emptiness of the second day and we do not see it happen, yet it comes.  There are stories of what happens on this second day, Jesus harrowing of hell, his decent to the dead, mighty works but not our work.

Our work, like my spiritual director all those years, on this Holy Saturday is to prayerfully sit with God – holding our nation, our world, our NHS, our church, our families living daily its own Holy Saturday- caught between death, so much death and a tomorrow that seems so far away, and we don’t know how to get these.  Yes there is grief and weariness today but our intercession is rooted in hope because Jesus has risen and the longed or tomorrow will come.

‘Jesus said, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…after he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this’ .               


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