For most of us, what we call Holy Saturday is a day of preparation. There is practice for everyone who will be participating in the Easter Vigil that night to welcome the catechumens as they receive the Sacraments. There is the preparation for Sunday’s big meal with family. For the little ones there may be the coloring of Easter eggs and for too many it is just another Saturday, but what was it like for those close to Jesus, as He lay in the tomb?
We have to think Jewish because Jesus and Peter and Mary Magdalene and the Apostles and all the disciples were Jewish. They had to bury Him with haste, Friday evening before sunset when the Sabbath began, with no time to properly prepare the body. Saturday would have been devoted to prayer without any servile labor. That’s hard to imagine, except for those of us who remember the “good-old-days” when everything was closed on Sunday, except for a gas station here or there. I guess it was easier for us to “keep holy the Sabbath” back then.
Even though we celebrate the Resurrection today, it is worthwhile to spend a moment attempting to enter into the mindset of the friends and followers of Jesus on that Saturday when nothing could be done, remembering that Sabbath ended at sunset and it was not safe to go out at night and complete the preparation of the body they had to lay in the tomb with haste the night before.
Did they wonder about this great prophet, Jesus? It was Peter who declared Him the Christ when asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Three of them—Peter, James and John—witnessed His transfiguration. There were countless healings, feedings and miracles that so many people witnessed. How could He be dead? How could He abandon us? Why didn’t he answer Pilate and defend Himself against His false accusers? What happens next?
All of this is worth contemplating to better appreciate the Resurrection but there is another aspect worth our contemplative time. We live a continuing Holy Saturday, wondering when He will return and, for some, if He is truly who He claimed to be.