It's the Time When You Have to Wait for the Lord

18 April 2020
Dmitriy GASAK, vice-rector of SFI SERMON during the Holy Saturday Matin (Mt 27:62-66)  

In the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Dear brothers and sisters!

Christ was murdered. The kings, both religious and secular, had gathered together “against the Lord and his anointed”. There’s an intense idea in this hymn, as if a rebuke and a sort of a judgment that the kings and the rulers cannot set themselves but “against the Lord and his anointed”.

Indeed, the one who thinks he is a ruler in this world should always remember that this power is not God’s power, and this is the pride; the pride and all that cherished those people who went to Pilate. Then again, we see that they had set themselves together, one way or another. And the amazing meanness, as if there are no limits and no fear (as the poet once said: “with insolence on their faces and fear in their eyes”), which forced them to drive the nail to the head and even shut the grave, the grave of this poor Jesus from Nazareth. To shut it and to not let Him out, and to prevent his disciples from stealing Him. What else were they able to think of the disciples? Surely, they judged by themselves. That’s how all the participants of the event had spent that day: the rulers setting themselves together, the watchmen standing by guarding the stone, the disciples were God knows where. And Christ… He was in the tomb.

Holy Saturday is a wonderful time. The Saturday of rest. And we recall that very rest, which was right after the creation of the world. Nevertheless, that Saturday, when Jesus Christ rested in the tomb, can hardly be compared with the Sabbath we read from the Old Testament. That was a different time. On that Saturday, as it had been at other times, when Jesus carried out His ministry, the ministry markedly having the human being, the human life, that very Saturday He was in the tomb, but at the same time, it seemed as if all kind of human action, all sort of human thought, any rush of soul, all enterprise and all humanity had lost its sense and meaning for a while. And yes, indeed, when a man dies what is left for us to do? What sense, what action can we talk about?

That’s what it was like with that Saturday. But sensationally life had not stopped. Oh, yes, there are such periods of time, and humanity was given the experience of the Saturday, which started then and came to its end. But that memory, that experience of that first Holy Saturday left its mark in history, in flesh and blood on human life. That memory meant to be imprinted forever. For it is also a heritage of human experience, the experience of the resistance of good against evil. And it’s the solution of this everlasting conflict. Without that Saturday it would have been impossible to solve it. 

Today we are recalling this day with a special piety and special silence, I guess, and with a special thought of what we can do. And probably today, when we have to stay home, the same habit of our former life sometimes bothers us and we don’t know what to do, where to put ourselves, what to deal with and what we can do today. And on one hand, it’s better to go through the day as soon as possible. The same as this particular day, which the Church often goes through as a mere gap between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Taking into account the fact that the service in our Orthodox church has been shifted a little bit back, maybe, and the liturgical memory of this day has also been, rather, shifted from the church perception. We are afraid of this time, in a way: where to put ourselves? People are accustomed to actions too much. Especially, these days, we all are trying to be ahead of time, to hold the top spot. Competitive environment has come to such a tension in all fields of human activity, not only in economics or politics, but everywhere, so that one cannot bear this pace, this tension. And it looks like someone else leads this endless race and human struggle. We are not used to waiting for someone or something. The one who waits, we know, loses time. That’s why you have to hurry and hurry up the others.

It’s a different time now. This Holy Saturday today, during this period, whether quarantined  or in self-isolation, we can’t even name it properly, but what experience an epidemic, and we are trying to avoid hurting ourselves and our neighbors, and we are trying to do our best to make this period come to an end. But we have to think over a special gift, about the meaning of this period, about the sense that we can draw out of it, about something that we can create, for even then on that Saturday something was to be born. And who knows, maybe this Saturday makes sense when it is not only God who waits for a man, for there had been lots of testimonies in the Old Testament, when the prophets used to say on behalf of God about His fidelity, and that He never denies words, never denies His promises and is always ready to accept His people. But maybe, this is the time, when a man has to wait for the Lord.

And behold, it turns out that there is a time of rest in one’s life. This is a God-given rest time, when something is to be born, the faith is to fulfill, something profound in a man is to take over and to become the fundamentals of his life. So, that the meaning of our life would not be determined from ab extra but be born ab intra. Just as it was on that very Saturday, when the Lord was in the tomb, his disciples disappeared one way or another, and probably, they were confused, but still for them, the Saturday had had a great meaning.

Let us, dear brothers and sisters, on this day of confusion and at the same time silence and rest, be faithful to God, to the path we’ve chosen, and be faithful to the vocation of man. Because it is not determined by the outdoor vanity, nor is it acquired that way, but by means of what God bestowed from the very beginning, the spirit of man. And let this Saturday be a sort of a memory and, perhaps, a pledge of what the apostles were to run into right on the next day. Amen!

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