The Seventh Day: A Reflection for Holy Saturday 2021

And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation (Gen 2.2-3).

We have come to Holy Saturday. A lot has happened this week. After the whirlwind of the raising of Lazarus, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, all the events of Holy Week that saw Jesus conspired against, betrayed, accused and convicted as an enemy of the state, abused, and executed, we find ourselves standing quietly at Jesus’ tomb.

In all the Holy Week activity, Holy Saturday is a pause, a moment of rest that always strikes me as unexpected no matter how many times I experience it. It’s the sort of pause that doesn’t feel like nothing. Rather, it’s a pregnant pause, a silence that seems to say everything.

There was a belief among many of the Church Fathers that connected the events of Holy Week with the seven-day literary structure of the creation story. They imagined Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to be like a big stone dropped into the smooth pond of time, sending ripples out in all directions, having consequences for the future, but also re-interpreting the past. And so they explained God’s rest on the seventh day — the Sabbath, which hallows and blesses every Saturday as a day of rest — as a symbol for this pregnant pause of Holy Saturday, when Jesus lies dead in tomb, having re-created the world through the offering of his incarnation and death.

This connection between creation and re-creation, between the Seventh Day and Holy Saturday, is an idea that feels too big for me. Like a sunrise or the feeling of holding a newborn, it is a Mystery for us to experience, observe, and contemplate, not to ‘solve’ or elucidate with words.

So today, I’d like simply to encourage you to do just this: to rest, and contemplate the Mystery before us. Because tomorrow, the world begins anew.

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