Holy Saturday

Luke 23:55-56

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Holy Saturday is the mysterious day in between Jesus’ death and resurrection. Mark, the gospel writer, notes that some of Jesus’ followers and friends spent this time weeping and mourning. The women gathered spices, but then went home and rested. Their beloved Messiah, Saviour, hope of Israel - was dead. Some Christian traditions have prayers and traditions that accompany this in-between day and others skip right over it as if it were simply a convenient shopping day wedged in the middle of holy-days when shops are closed. 

In recent years ‘Holy Saturday’ has become a more meaningful part of my Easter observance as a theologically significant middle place between death and life. This has grown as I have discovered connections between trauma, suffering, and the resurrection. As a counsellor who works with survivors of trauma, I have found the ‘middle space’ of Easter Saturday helpful - a kind of gift. It articulates a hope that resonates more accurately with the lived experience of survivors of trauma. The hope of Holy Saturday is barely there – just a hint, and both complex and nuanced. It makes space for death in the aftermath of trauma without rushing too quickly into life. It allows for silence, mystery, and grief to linger before new life bursts forth. Death and grief do not have to be forsaken for hope and healing to begin. 

In the aftermath of trauma, death lingers. This can be the literal experience of death, or a more meta-physical death which can include a loss of fundamental assumptions about the world and how things are. There may be a glimmer of hope, but there is still death. On Holy Saturday, Jesus is dead. We grieve with the women. The resurrection has not yet taken place. And so we rest without forcing anything else to happen.

This Easter is like no other.  In our bubbles, across Aotearoa, we are ‘in-between’ the potential devastation of a pandemic and the hope of a country freed to continue life anew. Before we race towards the resurrection hope that comes tomorrow, we can sit and reflect in this in-between day to help us make sense of our current experience before we start moving towards the resurrection (tomorrow) and life beyond our bubbles. 

The experience of this global pandemic could be considered a form of trauma. What used to be our ‘ordinary everyday lives’ is no longer ordinary. We have missed out on birthdays, sporting events, musical performances, weddings, and even funerals. The world has changed and we have changed – and we don’t yet know how. But we do know that some of the fundamental assumptions we hold about the world have died. Like the women who were preparing to anoint Jesus’ body – we can rest and grieve. In fact that may be the best thing we could to today. 

In this middle place of death and not-yet-resurrection it is not human striving, but the Holy Spirit who witnesses to the tentative and fragile existence of life and hope.  And so today, may you bear witness to the Love that remains in this middle place, where ‘how life was’ looks uncertain and fragile but hope, however tentative, remains.

Lisa Spriggens (Head of Counselling) with Lisl Baker (Culture and Relationships Coordinator)


We are including two pieces for musical reflection on this quiet, holy day. 

Arvo Part’s Stabat Mater Dolorosa – “The grieving mother stood weeping beside the cross where her son was hanging…”  

Allegri’s, Misere Mei, Deus