Holy Saturday: Let the Memory Live Again

Holy Saturday, the day that Jesus lay in the tomb, is one of the most overlooked days in the Christian liturgical calendar. There is no liturgy for the day and very little spirituality or theology about it. We tend to move right from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, moving from crucifixion to new life, from sadness and pain to joy and exultation.  What happens in between?

That question can be asked in another way: What does it take to move from death to new life?  We have all experienced that phenomenon in our lives: the time after something terrible happens and we think we will never be able to continue and the time before we experience a new outlook and renewed joy in living.  This in-between time can be a struggle.

When God offers us the opportunity for new life, we have the choice to accept or reject God’s grace.  We can’t resurrect ourselves; we can only choose to accept or reject the grace of resurrection that God offers when we are ready for it.  To make the choice for life requires a conscious effort on our part to decide to act differently.  We must recall how we were before, choose not to exist in this “dead” state, remember how God’s love operates in our lives, and elect to start life anew.

I can’t help but imagine that Jesus, while lying in the tomb, went through a similar process. While, of course, He was dead, my imagination can’t help but wonder what His thoughts might have been if He had them.  I believe that, just as we have to do, Jesus had to choose to resurrect.

For me, this experience of being “dead” and needing to choose to live a new life is best described in the lyrics of the popular song, “Memory,” from the musical, Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Weber.  I like to think of them as the “thoughts” that Jesus had while lying in the tomb. Here are the lyrics, followed by my interpretation of them in light of Holy Saturday:

1. Daylight
See the dew on the sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses whither away
Like the sunflower
I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day . . .

2. Midnight
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan

3. Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

4. Every streetlamp
Seems to beat a fatalistic warning
Someone mutters
And the streetlamp gutters
And soon it will be morning

5. Daylight
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

6. Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies, another night is over
Another day is dawning

7. Touch me
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You’ll understand what happiness is

8. Look
A new day has begun

The first verse describes the waiting that we go through.  The second verse describes the experience of emptiness we feel when dead.  The third verse offers the remembrance of how our lives used to be.  The fourth verse tells of the hope that we have during this period.

The turning point happens in the fifth verse, which reminds us that we can experience temptation to remain dead, to remain frozen in our current condition, rather than resurrecting. In this fifth verse, we are reminded of the determination that we need to experience resurrection, that it is our choice whether to do so or not.

The sixth verse lets us know that, though it seems we are trapped by this death experience, we will soon experience new life.  The seventh verse describes how easy it can be to stay in the past, rather than opening ourselves to a new experience of life.  The eighth verse simply states that we are now at the dawn of a new experience, better than we have tasted before and unencumbered by both the joys and tragedies of the past: a true resurrection.

May we all choose to resurrect to new life from the pain and tragedy of the past.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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5 Responses to Holy Saturday: Let the Memory Live Again

  1. Stephen says:

    I love this because I agree that there isn’t enough emphasis on “tomb time” or the deep waiting with uncertainty while we go through painful losses. I would disagree with you in the sense that resurrection comes in God’s time and God’s way and there is nothing we can choose. You can’t tell a mother who lost a son to just get over it or a wife that lost her husband in the war to move on. Grace is given when the time is right. Sometimes it is sooner than later, but sometimes it is later than sooner. May we all have the grace to be patient while God works in us.

    Peace and blessings,

    Stephen

    • Your point is well-taken, and I agree with you. I will go edit the post to be clearer that what I meant was that we have the choice to accept God’s grace for new life when it is offered. You are right that we can’t resurrect ourselves; we can choose or not to accept the grace of resurrection that God offers when we are ready for it.

      Thanks for pointing out that I was not clear.

      Francis DeBernardo

  2. Gerald says:

    Praise God for YOU, Francis! This a totally awesome contemplation of the Holy Saturday emptiness waiting to be cleaned out and filled with wonderful New Life ! Memories. . . .what a beautiful gift. . ..what if we didn’t have them? Thank God we do. . . as we move more surely into the often not-so-golden years.. . .

    What a beautiful song. . . so deeply resonating in my tomb-like spirit, clinging to HOPE as I wait for the meds to kick in to lessen the pain. . . Like your image of Jesus in the tomb. . .kronos awaiting KAIROS!. . . I await the New Life for another day. . . until the Eternal Easter dawns. . . .and this morning I CHOOSE to resurrect. . . .Alleluia!

    Thank you, brother Francis. Happy Easter. . .all over you. . .for all that you do for us!

    Gerald

  3. Joan Kinlan says:

    God bless you Francis and all the work you do.
    Joan

  4. [...] so Holy Saturday is the day in between death and new life.  Last year, on this day, I provided a meditation based on the song “Memory” from the musical Cats.   This year, for this in-between [...]

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