There is an emptiness about Holy Saturday until the evening. Nothing really happens in most churches on Holy Saturday, except perhaps a small group setting up an Easter garden. There are no liturgical assemblies before nightfall. There are no public ceremonies, no particular liturgies to interrupt the sense of waiting that marks the day. Holy Saturday is about dealing with darkness and growing in hope.
So, there is real excitement when the Easter Vigil gets underway. The Service of Light at the start sees a fire kindled in darkness and then the Paschal Candle is lit from the fire. Candles are lit throughout the church and the beautiful Exsultet chant is sung.
I had more excitement than I expected one year when, as a teenager, I set fire to my hair with a candle. The first I knew of it was when my fellow choir members suddenly started flicking my hair with their service sheets. But I remained, despite my frizzled locks, because I have always loved the Old Testament readings and psalms, pointing to God’s salvation, and then readings marking the blessing of Jesus in our lives. I love the celebration of Creation, especially water, and the renewal of baptism. The Easter Vigil provides plenty for reflection and deepening faith.
The power which vanquishes all other powers is the power of love, the love that is God, revealed and active in Jesus, the Christ. God revealed in Jesus that he loves each and every human being and will deliver each and all through love. All ways of delivering humanity from evil and death – if they are not manifestations of the love that is God, which moved Jesus and which He reveals in His words and deeds, are eternal dead ends.
But, the power of Divine love made visible in Jesus has its own way of action, its own dynamic of effectiveness. Everywhere there will be persons who will commit their lives to overcoming evil and death for all humanity by embracing Jesus’ Way of nonviolent love of all under all circumstances. Those who do this will have faith in Jesus and, by extension, in the truth of His teaching by word and deed.
We stand with the nonviolent Jesus as he suffers torture and execution, yet remains centered in the God of love, forgiving and nonviolent to the end. There is no desire for revenge when he rises from the dead. We also stand with the crucified peoples of the world. As followers of Jesus today we recall the futility of violence and capital punishment. We reject the resort to conflict and war to resolve tensions and denounce arms trading and the huge sums of money given towards producing bombs and guns. May we faithfully follow the nonviolent Jesus and bring peace and love to humanity.
This night, communities all over the world will gather in darkness, and there, in that darkness, a fire will be lit and the flame shared. Christ is the light of this night. Our celebration on this Holy Saturday, and our anticipation of celebrating the gifts of life and the Christian community, bring immense peace and joy, freedom and vitality to our lives. We can walk each day in God’s grace and live in love and hope.
when darkness overwhelms us may your dawn beckon,
when fear paralyses us may your touch release us,
when grief torments us may your peace enfold us,
when apathy stagnates us may your challenge renew us,
when courage leaves us may your spirit inspire us.
And when death threatens may your resurrection light give us hope.