Dean G. Sujin Pak’s Message for Holy Saturday and Easter 2022
Easter has a long tradition of being the height of the Christian liturgical season, particularly in the calendar of western churches. It can be a beautiful celebration of hope and resurrection, offering the promises of new creation and restoration after a season of repentant preparation (Lent) and after a profound event of violence, loss, and grief (Christ’s crucifixion). The yearning for such Easter hope is palpable in a world wracked with trauma and loss of life from the crises of war, racism, climate change, a health pandemic, and a myriad of injustices and inequities.
Yet, as our own theologian Dr. Shelly Rambo points out, we are at risk of completely overlooking a crucial aspect of the Easter story when we move too quickly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Dr. Rambo names the need for mindful attention to Holy Saturday. She warns of Christian theology’s tendency toward a too-quick movement to a triumphant resurrection, often at the risk of glorifying suffering, evading violent realities, and glossing over trauma and loss. In Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, she wisely suggests, “Perhaps the divine story is neither a tragic one nor a triumphant one but, in fact, a story of divine remaining, the story of love that survives. It is a cry arising from the abyss. The question is: can we witness it?” (172).
Can you imagine that first Holy Saturday? The disciples’ worlds were turned upside down. All that they had been certain about—all in which they had placed their hope—was devastated. Traumatized by violence and loss, they huddled together in disorientation, grief, and shock. The way forward was not only uncertain; it seemed unimaginable.
For many in these COVID years, uncertainty has become a constant companion.
These feelings are not so unfamiliar. Certainly, they are not unfamiliar to persons whose worlds have been disrupted and destroyed by disease, war, racism, ecological devastation, and repeated, traumatic injustices. For many in these COVID years, uncertainty has become a constant companion. Indeed, beyond COVID, uncertainty and trauma have been too-long a companion of too many.
What might it mean to linger on Holy Saturday? For one, we find that the disciples and their families gathered in a room together. They must have mourned and grieved together. They must have held each other’s trauma and uncertainty. They must have had to find a way to accept the silence, the lack of answers. All the while, they remained with one another. They abided with one another. They sought and found solidarity and strength in and with one another. As Dr. Rambo suggests, they found love in the remaining.
Holy Saturday is a call to a profound hunger for peace and justice that cannot and will not be satisfied with shallow, illusory ‘triumphs’.
Christianity’s triumphalist temptations have had dire consequences, particularly in the season of Easter, as any historian of Christian-Jewish relations will know. Christians would do well to pause long and intentionally within and upon Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday is a call to a profound hunger for peace and justice that cannot and will not be satisfied with shallow, illusory ‘triumphs’. Holy Saturday is the vocation of remaining, with honest recognition and acknowledgment of our own and others’ pain. Holy Saturday is an invitation to transformative love and life-giving solidarity, that we might begin to become, embody, and enact the life abundant that is Easter.
– G. Sujin Pak, dean