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Holy Saturday and COVID-19: The In-Between Day

Originally posted April 20th, 2019, this blog is an updated post in light of the COVID-19 crisis.


“Mostly, it seems to me, our lives are lived in that relentless Holy Saturday where joy and sorrow, bondage and liberation, life and death tangle. A day that unfolds forever between the cross and rising Son.

Holy Saturday is the day of release from prison, with a new set of clothes and walking money, but no place to go. Or the day we see clearly the marriage has broken beyond repair but a ring is still on our finger. Or the day the funeral flowers have wilted, the out-of-town mourners have gone home, but our life is stuck near the grave.

Or it is simply the day when nothing happens.

Holy Saturday, that in-between day, is the day we know best.” [1] - David Giuliano

We don't know what to do with Holy Saturday.

Or at least I don't.

On Ash Wednesday we cover ourselves in ashes and repent. During the forty or so days of Lent we give something up, maybe add a devotional or tangible act of service to our lives. Palm Sunday we wave branches, shouting, "Hosanna in the highest!" This year was a little different, of course. Most of us settled for taping some greenery to our mailboxes. And then there’s Maundy Thursday, where we digest the body and blood, typically gathered around the table (this year, we assembled around our screens).

Even with Good Friday, though it's the most somber, the darkest day of the Christian year, there is at least something to do. Worship. Sing. Strip the altar. Cry and mourn.

And of course, with Easter Sunday, we know what to do there.

But Holy Saturday.....Holy Saturday, what do we do?

What is there to do?

In some ways, Holy Saturday is a representation of our current circumstances. This in-between time. COVID-19 has most of us at home. (I acknowledge that many are still serving our community in healthcare, government service and the food industry, to name a few. We thank you for your bravery and pray daily for you.)

For those at home, some have been asking that same question while under a statewide “stay at home” order - what is there to do? We want to do something. We want to help.

But we’ve been told the best way to help is to stay home. Stay put. Do nothing.

I struggle with that answer just like I've always struggled with Holy Saturday. I spend my life doing things. Keeping busy. Checking things off my to-do list. Accomplishing something. Then moving on to something else.

But more than ever, I'm drawn to Holy Saturday in a way I can't explain. There's something about it that feels, well.......true. True of my life and true of life as we know it today.


Brian Erickson, a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama, says this about Holy Saturday:

Here on the In-Between Day

When we have no gospel account to fill the silence,

no Saturday hymn to drown out the quiet,

no behavior we could cobble into liturgy,

When we are caught between the bookends

of unspeakable brutality and unfathomable blessing:

There is nothing to do.

There truth is, there never was,

It is and was and always will be gift, sabbath, grace.

The quiet is meant to remind us what we forgot

That the world spins without our help

The sun rises without any instruction from us

We are far less important than we pretend to be

And far more significant than we would dare to dream. [2]

He's right - there's nothing to do.

And I don't like it.

I want to proclaim the Risen Christ, but there's not yet anything alive...

I want to go dig up the grave, but the tombstone is too heavy to move...

I'd even be willing to remain at the foot of the cross, but it's the Sabbath and his body has been removed…



The Gospel writer Luke reminds us: "It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning" (23:54).

Karl Barth, a Christian theologian, in reference to the creation story in Genesis 1-2, reminds us what Sabbath does for us:

As far as man is concerned, he has simply to recognize that God has really done all that is necessary, that He has invited him to participate in His rest, and that he may accept this invitation.

In other words, he is left wholly and utterly with the grace of God. [3]

From the very beginning, Sabbath was an invitation to rest. An invitation to remember that we can do nothing. Nothing. We don't earn God's love or gifts - he simply gives them to us.

Despite the pain, the agony, the despair, those earliest followers of Jesus - those women who were with him since the beginning - they embraced Sabbath. Luke tells us that "on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment" (23:56).

So maybe we should follow suit. Despite the pain, agony and despair we find ourselves in.

Maybe on this in-between day we should try to do a bunch of nothing.

No one will fault you for running to the grocery store for last minute ingredients for tomorrow, painting eggs with your kids, or mowing the grass. No one will fault you for watching more of the news, scrolling through social, or turning on your favorite new series on Netflix.

Like I said, we're not very good at doing nothing.

But I'm going to try to spend at least some time today - as much time as I can stand - sitting in the in-between, hoping to find some grace in the nothingness.

Because truthfully, that's where most of life is spent.

Living out Holy Saturday after Holy Saturday.


1. David Giuliano, Holy Saturday Spirituality

2. Brian Erickson, Facebook Post about Holy Saturday, April 20th, 2019.

3. Karl Barth, CD III.3, p.219.

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