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Two Reflections for Holy Saturday

Below are two reflections on Holy Saturday shared at this morning's prayer service. The first is from a speech given by Pope Benedict on Holy Saturday in Turin, Italy, in 2010. The second is an adaptation of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday whose date and writer are unknown, though it is believed to have originated in the first or second century — within just a few generations of Jesus and his eyewitnesses.

The Entombment of Christ, Titian (1523-6)

Meditation of Pope Benedict XVI on Holy Saturday:

After having passed through the last century, humanity has become especially sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. God’s concealment is part of the spirituality of contemporary man. There is an emptiness that continues to expand in the heart. . . . After the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, [and we could add, the pandemic] our epoch has become in ever great measure a Holy Saturday.

Christ in Limbo, Fra Angelico (1441-2)

Ancient Homily on Holy Saturday:

Something strange is happening — there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and He has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, He has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the son of Eve.

The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won Him the victory. At the sight of Him, Adam, the first man He had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: "My Lord be with you all." Christ answered him: "And with your spirit." He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

"Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son. . . . For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed in a garden and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received, in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received, in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured, to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in death. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven.

Heaven awaits you. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity."

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