|The lamp is dark.|
Holy Saturday is the day unlike any other. After the heart wrenching cosmic-human drama of Good Friday, the strange pedal controversies of Holy Thursday, the poignancy of Judas' betrayal on Spy Wednesday, the ephemeral triumph of Palm Sunday, and all the Lenten days of fervor and forgetfulness preceding, Holy Saturday is the hollow day. A hush has fallen over creation for God is dead.
He suffered, died and was buried. Full stop. End of story. No one, except perhaps His sweet, suffering mother dared to hope for more. The faithful and practical women would lay their grief aside like knitting to discuss embalming Jesus' body, then, the awful fact would kick them in the stomach, and they would take up their grief again.
He suffered, died and was buried. This is where the story ends for the world. The Church leaves us alone with our thoughts today. Holy Saturday used to see the longest evening service in the Church. It lasted from sundown Saturday to sunrise Easter Sunday. It was entirely oriented to the coming baptism of the Catechumens. Nowadays, we sit like Job's friends at their best, at the beginning of the story, when they were silent before the enormity of death. Or, more likely, we're busy making last-minute plans for Easter.
In this life, we see Holy Saturday from the outside. The occupied tomb. There are parts of God's grand story that do not directly involve us, and the inner events of Holy Saturday come to us as rumors from a distant front.
But they are rumors of victory!
|Christ in Limbo (detail) by Agnolo Bronzino, Santa Croce Church, Florence (1552)|
Condemned for "lewdness," it incorporates the likenesses of many Florentine notables.
|In this detail from the same painting, hideous demons|
watch helplessly from above; Bronzini's anatomical realism
makes them all the more disturbing.
And even better, Fra Angelico's real "smash-and-grab" complete with a Devil flattened beneath the door like Wile E. Coyote! Much more spiritual and simpler in style, it modestly gets the job done without covering the surface with skin.
|Christ in Limbo by Blessed Fra Angelico (c. 1450)|
Fresco in Convento San Marco, Florence, Cell 31
Jesus has violently kicked in the door of Hell, humorously flattening a demon who sought to bar it, and sending others scurrying for the shadows.
Meanwhile Abraham, the father of all who have faith, leads the long line of prisoners from the caverns below. If they do not look happy about their rescue, perhaps it is because they are in worshipful awe of Jesus, or can't quite believe their good fortune after thousands of years. They are clearly determined to get out.
These wonderful meditative tools were in the humble cells of the Dominican friars. Can you imagine having a fresco by Blessed Fra Angelico in your own bedroom to contemplate?