By: Alexandra Carroll, M.T.S., CMN Director of Communications
Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017
Finding Life After Death
“he descended into hell…” - The Apostles Creed
Holy Saturday has always been one of my favorite days of the liturgical year, though we don’t usually hear too much about it. In the midst of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday often gets lost. Only in the Apostles Creed are we reminded of the beautiful, yet difficult, reality of Holy Saturday: Jesus descended into hell. I have personally come to understand these four words as the most telling words we have to describe the unending love God has for creation. Holy Saturday can be understood as the site of divine abandonment in which Christ, in the depths of hell, experiences the abandonment that we feel in the aftermath of the gruesome death experienced on Good Friday. Holy Saturday provides the space for hope and healing for those on both sides of the criminal justice system.
On Holy Saturday we are confronted with the devastating fact that Christ is dead, that God in love has entered into death. Rather than approach this from the site of the cross, Holy Saturday invites us to reflect on the Spirit, as the unique bond of love between God and Christ - even in the depths of hell. In this moment we see the truest form of God’s Solidarity with humanity, when Jesus, rather than rescue those in hell, identifies with them. “Divine love is revealed at the point in which it is most threatened.” (1) In this experience of hell, a great comfort can be found for those experiencing great suffering. There truly is no place that God does not go. Even in the depths of great suffering, of God-forsakenness – God will still be there. Not only does this offer hope to those who have committed great wrongs, but it also sheds light on how we are to heal from great harm.
In Jesus’s experience of hell, it is the Spirit that allows light to shine through the darkness; it is the Spirit which makes way for “life through the wounds of death.” (2) In the mystery of Holy Saturday, in the emergence of life after death that will come to fruition one day later, it is the Spirit that endures and secures love between life and death; it is the Spirit that bears witness to what remains. This Spirit “rewrites an understanding of love in significant ways, attesting to a form of divine presence that is difficult to see, to feel, and to touch.” (3) The Holy Spirit is what gives life to that which persists despite death and narrates a new understanding of redemption. (4) In this light, we are called to reflect upon the trauma experienced by murder victims’ families, and the incredible challenge they have to persist, to find life after death. On Holy Saturday, it becomes clear that the Spirit calls us to witness the suffering of not only the victims of crime and their family members, but also to all those on death row and all who are executed through the use of the death penalty.
In witnessing to the realities of our criminal justice system, redemption becomes the ability to recognize the life remaining after the experience of violence - to heal the harm in one’s life. In the space of Holy Saturday, amidst the death and devastation present, there is hope. There is hope in the middle, in the space between life and death where the Spirit persists and breathes life into those who remain.
As we mark Holy Saturday this year, I will challenge myself not to rush into the celebration of Easter but to remain in that space searching for life after death. I will reflect on Jesus in the depths of hell, and the divine love that remained. On this Holy Saturday, we are all presented with the task of bearing witness to all those who have died - both victims of crimes and those executed with the death penalty - and those loved ones who remain.
(1) Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 68.
(3) Ibid., 79.
(4) Ibid., 141.