Word Magazine April 1999 Page 14


By Fr. Steven Rogers

As human beings we all experience events in our life which bring great joy or great sorrow. There are times of great excitement — marriage, the birth of a child, success at work . . . . and there are times of disappointment and grief — the loss of a loved one, serious illness, financial or professional setbacks. Neither sorrow nor joy is a stranger to most of us.

While the events in our life that evoke these emotions tend to be what we remember most, the truth is that the vast majority of our lives is spent between these emotional extremes. As human beings, and as Christians, most of our experience falls between the highs and the lows.

One of the most beautiful services on the Orthodox liturgical calendar falls into a period of being “in between.” Between the deep sorrow of Holy Friday and the exalted joy of Pascha Sunday is Holy Saturday. On Holy Friday, the Church reflects the sorrow and the darkness of our Savior in the tomb. At Pascha, the resplendent light of the empty tomb bursts forth to bring an end to sorrow and sadness.

During Matins and Divine Liturgy on Holy Saturday we experience both extremes. The services begin lamenting the death of the Lord. All is still dark as the Church mourns Jesus in the grave. But, as the service continues, this lamentation turns to joy as we no longer lament Christ entombed, but now look in anticipation to the empty tomb and Christ’s resurrection. Bright colors replace the dark. The epitaphion is removed from the grave and placed on the altar. All sorrow is passing as we now anticipate the joy to come.

Holy Saturday, this time between the cross and the empty tomb, this interlude between deep sorrow and extreme joy, reflects in many ways our whole lives as followers of Christ. There are times in our lives when the cross seems very real to us. There are other times when the resurrection burns within us as a living reality. But we live most of our lives “in between.”

In times of great joy and sorrow, we usually are very aware of God’s presence in our lives, or at least our need for Him. But in that “in between” time we sometimes lose sight of Him. How are we to live our lives in between the sorrows and the joys?

The Scriptures give us our example. In between the burial of Christ and His resurrection are the myrrh-bearing women. In the Gospel of Luke we are told, “And the women also, which came with Him from Galilee, followed after and beheld the sepulcher and how His body was laid. And they returned and prepared spices and ointment, and rested the Sabbath day according to the command­ment.” On Holy Saturday, the gospel reading tells us of these women going to anoint Jesus’ body on the following day and encoun­tering the empty tomb.

In between sorrow and joy, in between despair and hope, in between the burial and resurrection, the myrrh-bearing women were not idle or apathetic. Even in their grief at seeing Christ placed in the tomb, they continued to honor Him, to serve Him, and to see Him as the source of all hope. Never did they abandon him, never did they stop serving Him. Never did they say, “Nothing can be done.” Their faithfulness “in between” was rewarded with the experience of the Resurrection. Between life’s joys and sorrows, where the vast majority of our lives are spent, let us look to the myrrh-bearing women as our example and, in doing so, share their ultimate joy.