Triduum Retreat 2020 – Holy Saturday – The silence of Holy Saturday

Welcome to this audio retreat produced by the Jesuit Institute South Africa.

For Holy Saturday, Fr Anthony Egan SJ reflects on ‘the Silence of Holy Saturday’.

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The Silence of Holy Saturday

Even in a time where we are not locked down, quarantined or limited in public assembly by the Covid-19 pandemic, today – Holy Saturday – there are no readings, no Masses, no services. We are invited to sit in silence, to reflect on the events of Good Friday. Above all we are invited to wait.
A few years ago, I wrote the following for a Lent Book we produced at the Jesuit Institute. It’s an imagined series of voices reflecting on the aftermath of the Crucifixion. Listen to them and then try to imagine your own thoughts and feelings at this time.
Pontius Pilate: Report to Rome. Subject: Jesus the Nazarene. Message begins…The Galilean is dead. Potential disaster has been averted. His followers have scattered and the Jews go about their annual Passover rituals. Thanks to the quick thinking of myself, High Priest Caiaphas and his colleagues and Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee, the crisis initiated by the arrival of Jesus the Nazarene last week in this provincial town of Jerusalem (I will not call it a city, for Rome is the only real city on this earth) is over. There will be no rebellion under my watch.
Peter: Thoughts of Simon Peter, sometimes called Cephas….He is dead. We are in hiding, all of us. From the roof of our safe house I can see that accursed hill, Golgotha. Today, under a bleak sun – at least the sun seems bleak to me, when it does not scowl down on me in accusation – I can see the permanent wooden posts on which the crossbeams are hung during times of execution. They stick out more prominently today like ugly fingers pointing directly to the heavens, in defiance of God himself. Sometimes I think they point at me, at my cowardice…
Biblical Scholar: Extract from a draft article for the Journal for New Testament Studies: It was uncommon for crucified criminals, particularly those who rebelled against Rome to receive a normal burial. After insurrections, like that in Palestine in 6 C.E., thousands of rebels were crucified at regular intervals on the Roman roads, their bodies left to rot or be eaten by carrion (as had happened in Italy decades earlier during the slave revolt led by Spartacus). In Jerusalem…
Centurion: From the diary of a Roman Centurion: At least the decent one we executed was not thrown onto the dump like we did with the others, to rot in this accursed heat as wild dogs and vultures pick at them. I am not squeamish by nature – I have killed men in battle, executed many more, including many in his vile place. But somehow this man seemed …different.
Mary: From the diary of Mary of Magdala…..We are all devastated. I am devastated. He who cured me of my seven demons, whom I love…loved… like no other man, is dead. How often I have listened to him tell his wonderful stories, filled with barbed wit that skewers the pious pretension and puffed up arrogance of the men who dominate us, who make us – women, daughters of Abraham – feel little more than sheep to be herded and traded by them. His mother, my namesake, and the other Mary, we who have travelled with him and his band of merry men, are shattered. It is all too much for her, though she says an angel once told her that a spear would pierce her heart. She sits with us weeping, staring out in the direction of that horrible place where yesterday we stood alone with young John, waiting for my beloved to die.
Thank God at least for that kind man Joseph, who offered to bury him rather than leave him to the dogs and vultures.
Caiaphas: From the private journal of Caiaphas, High Priest of Jerusalem…It’s always a tragedy to see a man die, a son of Israel – however misguided he might be. It’s no crime to be deluded, whatever we said yesterday morning. Of course his comments were heretical, possibly blasphemous even. Normally a good beating, then a spell in a cell, then a swift cart ride to the city gates and a warning to stay out of this Holy City until he’s regained his senses would suffice. But at this time, with Rome breathing down our necks…no there was no choice. One man, as we noted, had to die for the people. For the people. For God’s people. Our people.
Peter: Thoughts of Peter as he sits on the roof of this safe house:….You fool Simon! You should have stuck to fishing. You are no good at all this wandering around, let alone leading the Twelve. In his hour of deepest need, having just made absurd drunken public protestations of love and loyalty unto death, you deny him! And then you hide here in this nasty little upper room! Big brave blustery Peter! Petros – rock? A rock that has cracked into pebbles under pressure. No, not pebbles, grains of dust. How could you have chosen me, Lord? How could you have asked me to lead them?
Mary: Mary of Magdala’s Thoughts….To keep busy, to keep sane – my spirit is too low, my mind too distracted to pray even on this holy day – I have been collecting oils and ointments. I have told my sorrowful sisters that after Sabbath tomorrow morning, early, before sunrise, I am going back to the tomb to anoint his body. It is the least I can do. He had no honourable burial. I shall give him that.
They want to come with me. No doubt the men will remain in hiding until the city quiets down and they can go back home, those who haven’t already slunk away into the night.
Centurion: The Centurion’s Diary again:…When we start killing holy men, it’s time to get out of this job. Roll on retirement, the ship home to Italy and my little villa and orchard outside Rome.
Peter: Peter again….Just got news: they found Judas, the traitor. Hanged in a field. Thirty pieces of silver – his payoff no doubt – scattered around him. Suicide – the Romans, if they’d been tidying up loose ends, would have pocketed the money. Remorse: couldn’t handle the guilt. After what he did I should feel glee at his death. But…After what I did, I think I understand him.
Pontius Pilate: From the Private Journal of Pontius Pilate….Do I worry, as my wife does, about this Jesus of Nazareth fellow? Not a bit. He defied Rome, albeit in a way I’ve never seen before. He embarrassed his fellow Jews, well those who work with us to preserve the peace even though I know that they hate us like the rest of the rabble. He got what was coming to him.
His death leaves me cold.
You may be feeling as you listen and reflect a sense of finality, particularly if your thoughts connect with the general sense of these times. We must always remember as we sit and wait that Easter is coming. There is an ancient tradition on this day of the ‘harrowing of Hell’, the belief according to our creed that on dying Jesus ‘descended into Hell’ – the place of death, loss and separation – to free those bound there. Even in death God is working, though we may not feel it now. We wait for everything – including a world locked down by coronavirus – to be renewed.
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Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za
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