Today is not St George’s Day here in England.
“But it is,” some object, “It’s 23rd April. That’s St George’s Day.”
Not this year, it isn’t.
The church calendar for this special season of the year takes precedence over saints’ days (we’ll overlook the dubious nature of George as a saint), and this year it’s relegated to 2nd May.
So what is today – Easter Saturday?
No, not that either. Easter doesn’t start until tomorrow. We’re still in Lent today. Easter Saturday is in a week’s time.
Today is Holy Saturday, one of the most neglected days of the church’s year. It is the day when, as my friend Will Grady posted on Twitter and Facebook earlier,
Sometimes, though, we Christians need to observe a Holy Saturday moment. On Holy Saturday, there is nothing you can do except wait. — N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone
It’s the day of waiting. Jesus is still in the tomb, so to speak. Hopes are still dashed. Darkness still covers over hope. It forms a wonderful section in Pete Greig‘s book on unanswered prayer, God On Mute, where he recognises that this darkness is where many people spend much of their lives. We wait in the tomb of hopelessness, with our prayers seemingly unanswered or refused, not necessarily knowing that it is all going to burst out of the tomb in new and unexpected ways tomorrow. Greig quotes the poet R S Thomas, who says that God is ‘the darkness between stars’.
So let’s not rush past today in the hurry to prepare for tomorrow. If we get a chance, let’s linger here. Because many people are – often against their will.
Later tonight – after sunset – my Easter Day sermon will appear here on the blog. But in the meantime, let’s wait – especially with those who are living protracted seasons in Holy Saturday.
Although Easter hasn’t turned out the way I planned this year due a certain young man’s escapades with a space hopper on a trampoline, I have been able to relate to it this year through the experiences we’ve had this Holy Week, especially this idea of waiting and watching.
In hospital, we had a lot of waiting – for the ambulance, for doctors, for X rays, for pain relief, for a bed, for a porter (especially for a porter!). On the ward, Paddy couldn’t sleep all night and there was nothing for me next to his bed except a hard, pastic stackable chair. So I spent 24 hours just waiting and watching with him, actively staying with him. And he kept saying thank you for that.
I couldn’t really do anything to help make things better for him, only the occasional word of reassurance or comforting cuddle, but it made me think about the power of waiting and watching with someone, of being by their side through thick and thin, of the whole idea of “God with us”. And it made me think a lot about the one character in the Passion who is silent throughout, the One who waits and watches His Son in pain and agony unable to intervene. We think (well, I do) about the Easter story from all the others’ points of view but for the first time I’ve stopped to wonder what was it like for God Himself?