Grant, Lord, that we who are baptized into the death of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ may continually put to death our evil desires and be buried with him; and that through the grave and gate of death we may pass to our joyful resurrection; through his merits, who died and was buried and rose again for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
That is the collect for today, Easter Eve, Holy Saturday – the empty day in the church’s calendar. A day mostly ignored, because there is nothing to do, liturgically at least. On this one day of the year there is no Holy Communion, the church is dark and empty. The struggle and agony of Good Friday is over, the disciples are scattered and defeated, Christ’s body lies in the tomb.
Holy Saturday is of course, on another level a day of huge busy-ness: all the preparations need to be made for Easter Day. There may be no liturgy, but churches are full of people arranging flowers, cleaning, making ready for the celebration to come. And all of that is right and proper, but … it can also serve to distract us from that deepest mystery of the church’s life, the mystery of death and resurrection.
Because it is only resurrection hope which makes grief possible; resurrection provides a floor to what otherwise can feel like a bottomless abyss, in which we fall constantly, further into despair. Therefore we can, and should dwell with the emptiness and grief of Holy Saturday, not rush too quickly to Easter. Christ’s suffering and death is our assurance that God is with us in our darkest places; his resurrection is our promise that those dark places are not, in the most literal sense, a dead end. Death and ending are both a grave and a gate.
When Jesus was confronted by the Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection, he responded by taking them back to the roots of Jewish faith, to the burning bush which was consumed by fire and yet lives, and the words which God spoke then
that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’
That is the resurrection promise – that all that has lived and been of God still lives in God.