Holy Saturday* by Sr. Catherine Cleary, OSB

Sing, my tongues, the song of triumph, tell the story far and wide. Fortunatus, 6th century

For most of us who are serious about our faith life, we love Holy Thursday and  Good Friday liturgies and celebrate those feasts as the major days of our faith life. It is the Saturday Easter Vigil, with its long prayers and 12 scripture readings that “gets” to us. Given half a chance, we will find something in our pre-Easter planning that prevents us from going to church on Saturday night…It is simply TOO LONG!

I offer this image as a help to make 2009’s Saturday Vigil a special liturgy for you. I  came to a new appreciation of this night of standing in the dark, carrying candles, singing lengthy antiphons and listening to Scripture stories when I read a section of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Two hobbits meet a talking tree, called an Ent.  They introduce themselves and the conversation begins.

The tree, Ent, says, “ I am not going to tell you my name not yet at any rate.  For one thing it would take a very long while: my name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story.  Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language.  It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say and to listen to.”

To use the tree’s expression, the liturgy is not going to be  hurried or rushed on Saturday night. On this Saturday night, we are going to tell our name to ourselves, to those who will become part of us this night through baptism and confirmation, and to those of the world who will listen, who will take the time to hear what our name is.

And our name is a very long one, one that has been growing since the creation of the world.  Our name is a very long story:

of how we were made;

of how God chose us from among all peoples,

of how God liberated us from bondage,

of how God planted us in the promised land,

of how, in these last time, God has given the story a new twist,

given our name meaning in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

So relax and make yourself comfortable in the darkness and don’t even try to “make sense” of the name. Just hear it, let it roll over you in waves as you listen to episodes in the lives of our Christian ancestors.

All of this will enable us to hear the lovely language in which we can really name ourselves as God himself has named us. “Christian”  is merely an inadequate abbreviation for what we are about to hear.

So like the tree, “Our story takes a very long time to tell, but it is worth taking a long time to say and to listen to, so we know our name: CHRISTIAN.”

*With thanks to Gabe Huck for ideas from his book, Triduum.

One thought on “Holy Saturday* by Sr. Catherine Cleary, OSB

  1. The Ent analogy works for so many facets of both Jewish and Christian faith–thanks for sharing it!

    It reminds me too of the debate between the first century rabbis, Hillel and Shammai. When Shammai was asked by a Gentile if he could learn the whole or heart of Jewish tradition while standing on one foot (i.e., in not a very long time), Shammai, who grew furious and chased him away with a carpenter’s rule (if my memory is serving correctly). The Torah is deep, and even a lifetime of study only begins to scratch the surface of it. . . . Undaunted, the Gentile posed the same question to Hillel, who said something more like this: “Love your neighbor as yourself; the rest is commentary. God and learn.”

    Ent would probably prefer Shammai–but even Hillel, more user friendly to the novice, suggests that it takes a lifetime to learn the central teachings of a faith tradition.


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