As I awoke early this morning in darkness still, I listened, and all that came to my ears was the low gong of chimes mixed with the chorus early morning birdsong. (How I wish, at this time in my life, that I had taken the time to come to know birds and their distinctive songs). Now that the sun has come up, there is still a happy bird singing nearby, but that song will soon cease. (In fact, it did cease while posting this!) What remains is silence. I know it won’t last, as the busy-ness of the day, and the traffic of regular life and news will soon enough prevail. In fact, I can begin to hear planes revving up at the nearby airport. But there has been the gift of this one precious early morning moment, which, hopefully, will set the tone for the rest of the day.
And it is a special day, the third day of what some call the “Triduum” (Three Days) leading up to Easter. It is commonly called “Holy Saturday” but in some Eastern Christian traditions is known as the “Great Sabbath,” alluding to the seventh day, when God rested from his work. On this day, the tradition holds that the one who rests is Jesus, now in the tomb—relieved from suffering and having passed through death, but quietly and invisibly working out the redemption of all who have gone before him.
All of this is marked in the life of the Catholic Church with . . . nothing. And this is intentional. There is no Mass on Holy Saturday, and there are no official prayers beyond those found in the Office. The dominant note is one of silence, thus working to sharpen our awareness of the ways in which the infinite God is moving within and among our lives.
An ancient homily asks, “What is happening?” The unknown homilist answers, “Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness…” What a gift to have a day like this one, a day dedicated to interior silence, to accomplishing nothing.