It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23: 44-46)
Holy Saturday. No services today. It is the sabbath. It was the sabbath then as well. The women, we are told, had gathered all the spices necessary to provide for a proper, honorable burial. At the last minute before the sun set and the sabbath began, a wealthy man named Joseph of Arimethea (a member of the religious council that had condemned Jesus--a decision he had vehemently opposed) went to Pilate and requested that he be allowed to take down the broken body from the cross and lay Jesus in his own tomb. All was completed as the sun set and the sabbath began.
The silence in the aftermath of all that had transpired must have been deafening. How could one "rest"? But they did. God commanded rest. The spices were carefully prepared and placed at the door. At first light, they would make their way to Joseph's tomb to do what needed to be done. A final act of love and devotion. The degrading, horrific, dishonoring, brutal acts of the day before would not be the last word. Love and devotion would redeem the remains of the day before.
We live in Holy Saturday. We know death in this world. In the shadow of death there is no shadow of doubt. We know what it means to live in the deafening absence that follows in the wake of death. We are called to do what needs to be done--acts of love and devotion knowing that when this day is done, love will carry the day.
And so we pray the prayer that Jesus teaches us to pray on this side of the grave...they will one day be our last words: "Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit." It is a prayer that Jesus had been taught to pray--found in Psalm 31. The words that follow in the next phrase of the Psalm complete the prayer, even though not spoken: "you have redeemed me, O lord, faithful God."
In this Holy Saturday world, we labor in love and devotion in the shadow of death. Such labor is born of a hope that a new day has dawned.
Even the shadows are evidence of an unquenchable light.