“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice as she made her way through Wonderland. And we can say the same as we move through Holy Week. The days have no true precedents, no true parallels. Even though they had been foreshadowed in the Old Testament, they arrived as a shock to all the Gospel eyewitnesses.
Holy Saturday is the quietest of them all. It doesn’t have the brusque and violent quality of Good Friday. Nor can it boast the miracle and spectacle of Holy Thursday. It lacks the cloak-and-dagger, behind-the-scenes intrigue of Spy Wednesday. It isn’t as pretty as Palm Sunday.
Yet it may be the most curious of the lot. After so much story and spectacle, we expect … Something Big.
But instead the screen goes blank. The line goes dead.
Amid the silence from heaven, the sound of birds in the morning seems shocking and impossibly loud.
A homily from the early Church puts the matter vividly: “What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.”
Because we are experienced Christians, we know that the spectacle will come. Tonight, in the Easter Vigil liturgy, there will be fire, water, and music. There will be candles and ringing bells. There will be bread and wine. The Church will sing the Gloria — and shout that eight-letter word that it’s suppressed for many weeks. Even if all we can do is watch the Vigil on screen from a remote location, we can still be astonished by the event it commemorates — and even by the commemoration itself.
So we should tune in tonight. But we should start preparing right now.
The Vigil is perhaps a few hours away. We have the time, so let’s prepare in a way that’s appropriate. Since we’ll be watching the event on screen, let’s back away from our screens for a while beforehand. Let’s shut off the phone, the laptop, the tablet, and the television. You decide how much time is appropriate. You decide how much time will benefit your soul. An hour? Two hours? Three or more?
Let’s observe a “digital fast” and spend some time in screen silence.
If we must hear God speak to us through our screens this Holy Week, let’s prepare his way. Let’s make these hours not a relaxation of our seasonal fast, but an intensification.
If we do, we’ll shout that eight-letter Hebrew word like never before, and we’ll mean it: Alle—-. Praise the Lord!