Holy Saturday

The world has gone silent.

Our Lord’s body is in the tomb.  He has truly died.  His soul separated from his body in the death that he really experienced.

We say in the Apostle’s Creed that “he descended into hell.”  The language reflects our human limitations.  We are creatures necessarily constrained by time and space.  At any given moment in time, we are necessarily in one particular place.  So, we think of hell as a physical destination. 

It might be more accurate to think of it as a state of being.  Hell is really the state of permanent separation from God.  Then, as now, there was also still Purgatory, a state in which souls were made ready for heaven.  But there was also a state of being for those souls who would have gone to heaven except for the constraint of original sin.  We can think of them as the holy ones of old.  

God the Son would not have entered a state of being permanently separated from God.  The statement itself is illogical.  But he could have joined with the holy souls who awaited the gates of heaven to be opened.  1 Peter 4:6 says that the Gospel was preached even to the dead.  Both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine would say that Jesus preached to souls in all three states of separation from God (hell, Purgatory, and those ancient holy ones waiting for heaven to open) by the spirit of his divinity through internal inspirations.  He enlightened even those in hell of his victory without entering a state that, by definition, excludes God.

In the end, the Church still calls this part of the Mystery of Holy Saturday.

As for us, we await the celebration of the Resurrection at the Easter Vigil.  There is no Mass for Holy Saturday.  There is no Gospel of the day on which to reflect.  The Missal says, “The Church abstains from the Sacrifice of the Mass” on this day.  It is intended as a time of anticipation.

With this pandemic, much of Lent has been, and much of Easter will be, a similar time of abstinence and anticipation.  We are forced to abstain from public Masses.  The people are forced to abstain from the Eucharist.  We all anticipate the end of this soon.  While one-time sacraments are being deferred for a safer time, we thankfully still have Confession (with extra distancing and by appointment) and Anointing of the Sick (but only outside of nearly all hospitals and nursing homes and with an incomplete set of PPE that is discarded or sanitized afterwards). 

On this Holy Saturday, the world has gone silent.  Let us enter into this silent anticipation today.  Rejoicing on the day of the Lord’s Resurrection and looking forward to rejoicing when we can come together again.