Holy Saturday is Our Lady’s day par excellence. She alone had kept the faith, she knew her Son would achieve what He had promised, she knew He would rise. But she waited. And Holy Saturday is essentially a day of waiting, hopeful waiting, but waiting all the same. This long vigil that takes us back so many centuries into the antiquity of the Roman Church has also been a time of patient waiting, waiting for the fire, waiting for the light, waiting for the lectors, for the deacon, for the priest, waiting and listening attentively, reminding ourselves that, as St Teresa of Avila says, “patience obtains all things”.
Our Lady waited on the first Holy Saturday. She was the Church on that First Saturday. There was only her. The others had all lost the faith, they were gone. Mary kept the spark of faith alive and burning in her immaculate and sorrowful Heart. Throughout history we see something similar happening at regular intervals. In the midst of the general decadence, a few souls, sometimes one soul, holds firm to the faith, to the truth, and in the dark waits and hopes.
Today too Mary waits and hopes, as the Church, the Body of Christ, follows her Lord in passion and death. She waits and prays. With the prophet Jeremiah in that moving prayer we read this morning at Tenebrae, she waits and asks the Lord to remember us as we see our inheritance handed over to foreigners, our homes and churches given to strangers. She waits and she prays for us who have lost our fathers, who have to pay dear money to buy water to drink, bread to eat, wood to keep us warm. She waits and prays as we are forced to serve our enemies and bear the iniquities of so many of those who have gone before us. We are dominated by slaves and there is none to redeem. Our numbers are thinned by death and persecution, the sword spares us not, our very skin is dried up by the wind. Mary waits as she sees her daughters and sisters dishonoured and humiliated. Amidst it all, she waits and she prays. And in this she is our model.
One of the great lessons of this vigil is that God steps in when all seems lost. He saved Isaac at the last minute before he was put to death by his father Abraham. He saved the Hebrews at the very moment they were about to be slaughtered by the Egyptians. He likes to let things reach an extremity in which He alone can be our Saviour. Such is the reason Our Blessed Lord lay dead in the tomb. He let death overcome Him, so as to destroy it completely.
So it is in the passion of the Church. There is talk in some quarters of three days of darkness. Whatever the case, the three days of Our Lord’s burial were truly days of darkness. It is precisely in that utter darkness when all hope is gone that Jesus makes His triumph definitive. So it will be with the Church. At the moment she is in the dark. But the day will come when she like her Lord will rise from the dead. When we least expect it, hope will come, a light will come.
It is good to wait in silence for the salvation of God.