Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday, an In-Between Day

Fra Angelico's "Christ's Descent into Limbo,"
In some Christian churches, little or nothing happens on Saturday of the Easter Triduum. There are no decorations or services. Pastors attend to other matters and perhaps can take a Sabbath rest, after the previous days' services and prior to the busy Easter. Somewhere I read that Saturday is a Sabbath rest for Jesus in his grave. Holy Saturday is an important day, an in-between day.

Two of the devotional guides I read, call us to think about in-between times. One (The Word in Season) describes Jesus as someone who placed himself between things several times. He died between two criminals, neither of whom he likely knew beforehand, but he loved both, even though one was hostile. Jesus also put himself between people in terms of social boundaries, and between people and God in terms of the sin that separated them from God.

The writer for the other periodical guide, Christ in Our Home, notes that our lives have in-between times of difficulty, as when we’re between symptoms and diagnosis, and between diagnosis and treatment. My wife and I have had health scares several times when symptoms indicated the need for more diagnosis; I had one of these circumstances just last summer. The writer connects such times with Holy Saturday and shows how the promises of Psalm 118 (“his steadfast love endures forever,” verse 1) can help fill the between times.

The word “between” made me think of the philosopher Martin Buber, who writes that we can perceive the other as an “it” or as a “Thou” (in German du, the second-person pronoun signifying familiarity and intimacy), but when we perceive the other as a “thou” we are in relation to one another, and the center of this relating he calls the between (Zwischen).

It’s never difficult to find examples of people being treated like “its,” denied a common humanity, whether gunmen in Kenya, or that poor fool who crashed the German plane, unconcerned about other lives, or any example of racism and homophobia reported on the news or experienced first-hand. When we objectify one another, there is no “between” of relationship, there is only one aloof from the other, or one against the other.

Christ was one who was always in relationship with one another. Even when he sought solitude, it was a time of relationship with his loving Parent in Heaven so that he could continue ministering to others. Even the grave was a place of relationship, with Christ placing himself, so to speak, between our common experience of death and the power of God to conquer death.

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