When I was a little girl, I saw an announcement in the bulletin asking for people to memorize and proclaim the stories of Holy Saturday.
“Can kids do it?” I asked my mom.
She spoke to Sister Linda, and Sister Linda said that kids could. I was assigned the creation story, and I memorized it. I stood on my bed and chanted about day after day of creation. I fought against my embarrassing tendency to speak of “the fish of the air and the birds of the sea.” I slipped into the rhythms of the story—“Then God said, God saw how good it was, Evening came, and morning followed”—and I found favorite lines: “and He made the great sea monsters, and all kinds of living creatures, with which the water teems…” “and He made the stars.” The words moved through all my senses.
There were adults telling all the other stories, but we were very much in it together. Mike told the frightening story of Abraham and Isaac, raising his own hand like a knife for the slaughter. Kathleen spoke with joy and grandeur of the parting of the Red Sea, her arms moving to either side and placing “the water like a wall, to the right and to the left.” Kathy (a different woman, despite the name), spoke with a voice like clear, slow honey about God’s tenderness, and how God would reclaim and adorn the forsaken people with carbuncles. This was perhaps the most exotic word I had ever heard. Carbuncles.
On the day itself we were sent into the quiet circle of the front of the altar, to make worlds with our breathing in and out, our hands, our words.
Holy Saturday is creative. Holy Saturday creates with story. Holy Saturday creates with fire— standing in the chill around a charcoal grill watching, hearing, participating in the making of the Paschal candle. Bearing the light back into the church with all the others, watching the glow pass from hand to hand. Holy Saturday creates with water—Father Fred was particularly vigorous about getting everyone wet as he marched around the church waving the dripping branch. Holy Saturday creates with song—my favorite line in the unearthly beauty of the opening chant is the most paradoxical and strange—“Oh, happy fault, oh, necessary sin of Adam, that has procured for us our redeemer.” The soaring pure notes carry me right inside the paradox.
On this day, I cannot just live with the paradoxical Mystery. I live the Mystery, and the Mystery lives me. Holy Saturday is re-creative. Holy Saturday pulls us with deep magic, it interrupts time as it enacts an endless cycle, it commemorates death but it pushes us through to something new. To something old.
I reach for the resurrected God and find as well a resurrected people, a resurrected self. I find the earth pushing flowers up through frozen ground, the unbelievable fertility of bodies and souls.
Look at the gardener. Run to the tomb. It’s Jesus. He has Risen. So have we.
It is greater than we have imagined. It is not something that can be contained in the smart little mind, the thinking about God, the normal space and time of Mass. It is something for the night, for a length of hours, for the nose to find in smelling and the hands in holding, the eyes in seeing, the mouth in speaking poetry.
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind moved over the waters.
“Then God said, Let there be light.
“And there was light.”
Rebecca Fullan wishes you resurrection, and carbuncles, and lit candles, and Jesus in all his cunning disguises, and spring flowers, and chocolate bunnies, and even sea monsters. Happy Easter.