The Great Silence

Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil April  15,2017

Scripture Readings:  Psalm 62: 6-9; Romans 8: 18-21; Mathew 28: 1-10

Holy Saturday has been called the quietest day of the Church Year. What is good about Good Friday? What is Holy about Holy Saturday? So many paradoxes. The cross is empty. Joseph’s empty tomb is now full of Jesus. The echo of Jesus’ last words “It is finished!” echoes in the great silence.  His followers huddle in numb silence with empty hearts and a cry within-“We had hoped.”  Holy Saturday-in between time, tomb  time.

Holy Saturday-Jesus tour of hell the creed says, “He was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell and on the third day He arose again.”

But, it is not yet the third day. In the heavy silence, Mary Magdalen is in the wings, clutching her precious spices, waiting for the Sabbath to end so she can go and anoint the body of Jesus. How was she going to remove the heavy stone? Love-filled grief doesn’t stop to think. What is there to do in/with Holy Saturday? In between time.  How are we to be in this great emptiness? We could go to the Easter flowerless church and get the Easter dinner blessed. We could clean the house in preparation for the Easter feast. We could put flowers at a loved one’s stone in the cemetery. But, then again there would be death, the grave, a stone to confront.

In between times, the great silence is hard to live. Poetess, Emily Dickinson writes profoundly of how little there is to do when a loved one dies in her poem, The last night that she lived. ” We placed the hair/and drew the head erect/and then an awful leisure was/our faith to regulate.”

Holy Saturday on its quiet way to Easter Vigil is an invitation to enter a silence those who grieve know so well. For some it is the dark silence of an extended illness, for some the stone-cold silence of a broken relationship, for all of us the violence and suffering all over the world, and the hollow echo of political promises, natural disasters abound­ the rumble of an earthquake, then silence, the tornado roar then the awful silence.

We must give ample time to experience our own Holy Saturdays. The day Jesus lay in the tomb need not lead to despair but to love, the love that propelled Mary Magdalen to eagerly await the dawn. To pass too quickly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday deprives us of the deep meaning of Jesus passion and death. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness.”



  • Name your empty
  • Spend time in silence before an empty cross at church or in your
  • Name the place where you desire to be at peace with emptiness, waiting, not knowing
  • Who can you reach out to today with a card, phone call, visit who is experiencing an empty

Dorothy Harnish, OblSB, Emmanuel Monastery, Lutherville, MD

Photo: Karen Amelia Brown




Author: 3osb

We are Sisters and Oblates of three Benedictine Monasteries who work together on communicating the Benedictine charism: Emmanuel Monastery, Lutherville, MD St. Gertrude Monastery, Ridgely, MD St. Benedict Monastery, Bristow, VA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s