psalms for passiontide: Holy Saturday Psalm 31.1-4,15,16








These are the images of Psalm 31.1-4, the oh-too-solid opposites of the tangled net the psalmist feels closing around him. 

On Holy Saturday, these are also images of a tomb in which an already much-mourned, much-loved, broken body lies waiting for its final anointing and arranging once the sun goes down on a sabbath day of enforced inaction.

On Holy Saturday, a moment of silence between street noise allows me to catch a whisper of a welling up of grief from two thousand years ago, from two minutes ago.  These are the choked sighs of the many who wait in limbo, stuck in the unreality of an existence where there is a felt absence when there should be a body; where the strange experience of being caught in the gap between a death and the opportunity for a final goodbye can only bring bewilderment and a sense of shifting ground where once there was steadiness.

The verbs this psalmist uses are telling, too:












My own faith story can be woven from these words.  And in the waiting room that is Holy Saturday, I am invited into the tomb, into the Rock’s very presence, to chew them over once again, finding there arc, hearing their resonance, rearranging their pattern.

For whilst I might begin my prayers with a desperate cry of ‘incline your ear to me’, a headlong dash for safety and reassurance, a pleading for an end to my troubles, through the help of this psalmist I can end them in the surety of steadfast love.

With the help of this psalmist I can begin to understand that God’s face will shine on me – will shine on me again and again – does not ever even glance away from me, even in my darkest dark.

At such moments when I feel agony or I feel numb, I hear myself mumble repeatedly, ‘My times are in Your hands’ (Psalm 31.15).  The resulting heart-knowledge has literally been my salvation.


backyard refuge rocks. (iPhone image)

For all those who are willing to take the opportunity of the pause that is Holy Saturday to be alongside those who grieve, and most especially in times of pandemic, I offer these words by Christine Valters Paintner:

Do not rush to make meaning.

When you smile and say what purpose

this all serves, you deny grief

a room inside you,

you turn from thousands who cross

into the Great Night alone,

from mourners aching to press

one last time against the warm

flesh of their beloved,

from the wailing that echoes

in the empty room.


When you proclaim who caused this,

I say pause, rest in the dark silence

first before you contort your words

to fill the hollowed out cave,

remember the soil will one day

receive you back too.

Sit where sense has vanished,

control has slipped away,

with futures unravelled,

where every drink tastes bitter

despite our thirst.


When you wish to give a name

to that which haunts us,

you refuse to sit

with the woman who walks

the hospital hallway, hears

the beeping stop again and again,

with the man perched on a bridge

over the rushing river.

Do not let your handful of light

sting the eyes of those

who have bathed in darkness.


‘In a dark time’

Christine Valters Paintner

backyard refuge rocks (bl)

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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