Reflections for Holy Week: On the Brink of Despair and Victory

By Jennifer Hevelone-Harper, Ph.D., Professor of History

I grew up Baptist and married into the Anglican tradition. One thing I gained with this change was an expanded Holy Week. We Baptists did branches on Palm Sunday, communion on Maundy Thursday, a somber service on Good Friday, and the glory of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Saturday seemed a good respite for dyeing Easter eggs and getting new Easter clothes laid out.

But now Holy Saturday is really the focal point of Holy Week. Holy Saturday is the day when the cosmic drama of God’s redemptive plan hangs on the brink of resolution. The despair of Good Friday, with the sun turned dark and the temple curtain torn in two, descends into waiting. His disciples mourn while his body lies in a borrowed tomb over the Sabbath. But where is Christ? The Orthodox icon of the resurrection shows Christ trampling the broken gates of Hades and pulling Adam and Eve up from their tombs. Christ descends to the dead so that he might rescue the faithful and usher them into Paradise. While those on earth hide in grief, sin and death are being destroyed.

Our Holy Saturday vigil begins dark and somber, but halfway through the lights blaze and congregants ring bells, shouting triumphantly, “Christ is risen!” The waiting is over, and the cosmic victory is at last revealed.

Read other “Reflections for Holy Week” >

“Reflections for Holy Week”—daily devotionals written by Gordon College faculty and compiled by the Center for Faith and Inquiry (CFI)—was first published in the spring 2018 issue of STILLPOINT magazineCFI is dedicated to forming thoughtful Christians for global engagement by carrying on valued traditions and innovating new ones—such as the Distinguished Visiting Scholars program, Jeffersonian dinners, the Gordon College Symposium and a variety of publications.