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HOLY SATURDAY


Mary:We’d laid him in a manger when he was born,

a rough-hewn box where cattle had munched just moments before.

We did our best to make it safe, of course,

wrapping him in swaddling clothes,

terrified that a splinter, even a nail, might pierce his tender new-born skin.

But it was only a reprieve, because,

when he became a man, my son was to be pierced by both splinters and nails.

I realised, as never before that, however much we treasured that bundle in the hay, however much we longed to keep him safe,

he cared, and continues to care, so much more.”



Mother of Sorrows, what cradle-song have you lullabied your Son,

so still in your arms as in the days of his first slumber?

Today your Son keeps silence in his quiet heart and body.

In your arms we see the sorrow of all mothers.

Mother of Sorrows, what cradle-song have you sung to your Son

in his slumber, to waken him from the night of the tomb?


Joseph of Arimathea:


“It was the least I could do,

and yes, I should have done more,

I know that.

I ought to have spoken out

before the Council,

I should have told Pilate

of their perjury,

pleaded for mercy.

But I didn’t.


But I’ve had enough of hiding.

I’ve nailed my colours to the mast.

It may cost me my position,

it will certainly cost me my friends,

it might even cost me my life.



HOLY SATURDAY begins in much the same way as Good Friday,

as a day of solemn silence and quiet hope, a day of waiting.

Christ lies in the grave, the Church sits near as the disciples did, and mourns.

The Creed states that Jesus "descended into hell,"

which the Catechism explains means that he really died,

and through his death conquered death.


There is a beautiful tradition that Jesus descended into hell

to raise Judas. (Martin Sewell - "Archbishop Cranmer" Blog)


Jesus appears to forgive all his detractors and betrayers on the Cross:

Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

It is surely not limited to his executioners.

This, of course, includes Peter, his most trusted follower

who denied him not once but thrice.


The difference is that Peter does not take his destiny into his own hands:

Judas’ ultimate rejection of Jesus is that he does just that.

Had Judas waited, he might have been saved in this world.

Yet there is a rather attractive tradition that on Holy Saturday

Jesus descends to hell in a rescue mission

for those who perished before his glory was revealed.

Within the wider traditional portrayals of the harrowing of hell,

there is even one that has Jesus going in search of Judas, the lost sheep,

without whom the story could not be.

Judas may take responsibility,

but cannot take himself beyond Jesus’ redemptive love or power.


Jesus taught us to love our enemies and do good to those that harm us.

His pursuit of Judas through hell is certainly congruent with that.

We do not know either way for the present:

perhaps our view on this will say something more about us than about Jesus.


On final observation on Judas. He meets his earthly end

and is buried in what becomes known as the ‘Potters Field’.

There is a symbolic symmetry in this.

In Genesis, God creates mankind for His purposes from the clay of the earth,

and when mankind wrests his own destiny from God’s hands,

it is to that very earth that he returns.

The tradition of the Harrowing of Hell may not be as clear as some might like,

but it is rooted in one of the deepest truths of the Bible:

God, who raised both Lazarus and Jesus from the dead,

has the redemptive power to raise even Judas

and all other betrayers and detractors.

Holy Saturday Prayer All-powerful and ever-living God,

your only Son went down among the dead and rose again in glory.

In your goodness raise up those whom we love but no longer see,

to be one with him in the eternal life of heaven,

where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.



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