The Great Sabbath – Silence

Holy Saturday is here, an in-between day. Yesterday we lived the Passion and Death of Jesus with Stations of the Cross and the reading of the Passion. Tonight we begin the celebration of His resurrection with light, readings, and baptism.

It is a day of silence. As Pope Francis said earlier this week:

Holy Saturday is the day of the silence of God. Jesus shares with all humanity the drama of death, not leaving any space where the infinite mercy of God does not reach. On this day, love does not doubt, just as Mary, the first believer, did not doubt, but kept silence and hoped. Love hopes confident in the word of the Lord until Christ rises in splendor on the day of the Paschal feast.

It is a day to set aside to watch and wait, preferably in silence.

Father Damasus Winzen, the founder of the primitive Benedictine Mount Saviour Monastery near Elmira, New York, wrote a beautiful little essay on Holy Saturday, entitled “The Great Sabbath Rest.” In this essay he notes the importance of silence:

Next to fasting, silence is the most important means to keep the spirit of Holy Saturday. Turn off the radio and television. Avoid all unnecessary talking. Stop the voice of man that God may have a chance to speak to our heart. “It is good to wait in silence for the salvation of God” [Lamentations 3:26], is one of the verses we hear during Matins of Holy Saturday. Silence is fasting with our tongue. We disclaim the right to make ourselves heard. We take our place among God’s disciples. We are ready to listen. Silence is the external sign of an inner conversion from self-assertion to faith in God’s saving love. “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel. If you return and be quiet, you shall be saved: in silence and in hope shall your strength be” [Isaiah 30:15]. The silence of Holy Saturday is not only the empty silence of not talking and of stopping all noise. It is an imitation of our Lord’s silence, of the silence of selfless love, which, instead of accusing and defending, covers all sins and carries them in the depth of forgiveness. Therefore, the silence of Holy Saturday should be an inner silence of the heart.

Today I will not be all that silent and restful. The Dulce Nombre choir is supposed to come here to my house for a morning of silent retreat. I will try to lead them into silence.

UPDATE: They cancelled the retreat morning. Someone left a message last night after  had gone to bed. But still, here’s what I had planned.

First we will spend some time quieting ourselves with meditative prayer.

Then I will invite them to walk in silence accompanying Mary, John, Peter, Mary Magdalene, or another of the women who accompanied Jesus to the Cross or another of the apostles who abandoned Him. What did they experience, what did they feel on this day of rest, but also of silence, perhaps filled with a spirit of abandonment.

Finally I will share with them a meditation on the resurrection by Carlo Carretto.

I need this as much as they might to prepare for the Great Vigil where we will celebrate the Light of Christ come into the world – with fire, readings, the waters of baptism, and the Eucharist.

And so I recall the words of Psalm 46:

Be still and know that I am God…

Great advice before the Easter Vigil.

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