I have a whiteboard hanging in my living room on which I write mantras and quotes and ideas and other random things like grocery lists and facts about the number 108 for my Chicago Cubs Opening Day party this year, which, by the way, was a huge success (just ask the 12 people who came). Anyway, a few months ago I wrote “Holy Saturday” in cursive on the center of my whiteboard. It remained there until, well, my Opening Day party a couple weeks ago, which, as I might have mentioned, was a huge success. As you probably know, Holy Saturday refers to the 24-hour period in the Christian calendar between Good Friday, where Jesus Christ was crucified, and Easter Sunday, when he was raised from the dead. But I wrote it on my whiteboard way back in January, in the shadow of Christmas, because I was inspired by a story that I read in Irish philosopher Peter Rollins’ book How (Not) To Speak Of God. In his book, Rollins shares a parable about a tribe of Christians who packed their belongings and found a new home merely one day after Christ’s horrific crucifixion. They dedicated their lives to following in the footsteps of Christ—how he loved God and scandalously loved others. The tribe's way of life continued for generations, despite the fact that they had no idea Christ had raised from the dead. Centuries later, a group of Christian missionaries stumbled upon the tribe’s settlement and shared with them that Christ had risen from the dead. This was shocking to the tribe since their ancestors had migrated from Jerusalem during the three-day period between Christ’s crucifixion and supposed resurrection. A great celebration ensued, but the chief of the tribe, with a heavy heart, wandered from the party where he was eventually confronted by one of the missionaries about his sorrow. As Rollins writes, this is what the chief shared with the missionary: “For over 300 years we have followed the ways taught to us by Christ. We followed his ways faithfully, even though it cost us deeply, and we remained resolute despite the fear that death defeated him…” One of the things that I love about Rollins’ creative parable is that it brings us back to the mindset of Christ’s apostles. The twelve ragamuffins who responded to the call of Christ by dedicating their lives to follow him were people who had left their trades and previous way of life to surrender to this man’s divine and mysterious ways.
They had sacrificed everything. For what? To see their hero die on a cross? To see him seemingly lose to the oppressor they hoped he would conquer?
I cannot help but wonder: In the following days, in the wake of their leader’s crucifixion and the ensuing unknowing, what kind of conversations were they having among themselves? Did they begin to believe that their leader was a fraud and that his claims were a hoax? Or were they so inspired by how he lived that they were still dedicated to pursuing those on the margins, loving God, and deconstructing religion? Did they feel that his death (and his lack of conquering their oppressor, the Romans) discounted what he claimed to be and therefore the belief in the God he claimed to represent? Or did the way he lived and how he died help them to pursue God more? Yesterday I attended Good Friday Mass in uptown Charlotte, and the priest mentioned how we live in a nation that is obsessed with victory. We love completion. Solutions. Attainment. Success.
Donald Trump became president of the United States promising that he’d “make America great again.” Those who are successful or victorious are on the front covers of our magazines and tabloids. Many of us dedicate our lives, whether we realize it or not, to, in some sense, attaining the American Dream.
In this light, is there anything more relevant today than Holy Saturday?
I think I wrote “Holy Saturday” on my whiteboard because there is something that is most relatable about doubt and unknowing.
Time and time again, I am forced to sit in a situation where I do not know the outcome. I am forced to make peace with the “lack” in my life—that thing where there is a desired result which often leads to an unhealthy obsession and intoxication as I pursue it. But maybe the key to happiness in my life is a reckoning with Holy Saturday, a way of living that makes peace with the “lack”?
If I can’t get a book that is important to me published, will I continue to write? If I give all I can but am met my disappointment, will I be daring enough to dance upon it? Will I be courageous enough to continue loving? If I don’t know if there is victory, how will I handle the darkness? And how will I persevere in the midst of it? Holy Saturday challenges us to persevere in our unknowing. Writes Rollins: “It is only as we experience Holy Saturday that we can ask whether we should follow Christ regardless of heaven or hell, regardless of pain or pleasure, whether we would follow in the midst of the uncertainty that Holy Saturday brings to our lives. It is only here that we can ask if we have truly offered ourselves to God for no reason other than the desire to offer ourselves as a gift. Faith does not die here, rather it is forged here.”
By Stephen Copeland
This blog was first published on copelandwrites.com.