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The Motions of Faith Sustain Us

A Lenten devotional for Saturday of Holy Week

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem where some say Jesus was laid after his death
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On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.—Luke 23:56

After the din and tumult of that terrifying Friday came this day of absolute silence. It was the Sabbath, the day of rest.

No clatter of hooves came from the deserted streets, no sing-song of water sellers.

Behind some of the shuttered doorways the silence was doubly deep. Here and there, in homes about the city, Jesus’ former followers huddled in a stillness, not of reverence, but of the grave. For them all was finished. The future had been buried with their leader; they had nothing more to live for.

More than once in my own life I have wondered: which is harder, the day of disaster or the day that follows? During an emergency we experience the rush of adrenalin, the numbness of shock. But what is there to sustain us in the empty aftermath, when our joy has died but we must go on living?

Holy Saturday is that dark tunnel where we find ourselves when the light of faith goes out.

To keep us going when there is no point—that is the wisdom of religious tradition. What did Jesus’ devastated followers do, on that silent Saturday? They kept the letter of the Law. They observed the Sabbath. There can’t have been much conviction, for them, behind this weekly formality. They had only habit to get them through the hours.

But they did have habit. “Going through the motions,” is usually condemned as meaningless for the walk of faith. Going to church when we no longer believe, reciting prayers we no longer mean. But when such things are all we can do, the motions of faith can keep us going until the meaning comes.

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Find more Holy Week devotionals and articles on our Lent page.

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