"Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos ut et vos diligatis invicem."
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
Maundy Thursday remembers Jesus' "Last Supper" with his disciples before he is arrested and crucified. In John's gospel, the above verse is what Jesus says after the Passover meal and after washing the disciples feet.
Good Friday remembers the crucifixion itself. Of course, for those involved, there was nothing "good" about it, and it's probably more properly called "Holy Friday." The words "holy" and "good" were much more synonymous in Old English than they are today, and "holy" has a distinct meaning. Qodesh in Hebrew and hagios in Greek, the word means "separate" or "consecrated" and does not express any inherent moral value.
Easter. The celebration of the resurrection, and Jesus appearing first to Mary Magdaline, or the men on the Emmaus Road, at the tomb or somewhere on the road, with or without angelic announcement....depending on which gospel you're reading. It's the celebration of the hope that death is overcome, sins are washed away, and the gates of heaven are open. Or for most people, Easter eggs and bunnies. Sometimes both. Where did the word "Easter" come from anyway? It's most likely from Eostre, the pagan Anglo-Saxon goddess of sunrise and spring, whose month was April and whose name was later used to refer to spring in general. (The contemporary German word for Easter is also thought to be related). As with Christmas, the state church after Constantine co-opted existing pagan holidays and made them Christian.
But what about Saturday? What happens Saturday? In some Eastern Orthodox churches, it's actually a big day commemorating Jesus' descent into hell to release captives. But in the Roman Catholic tradition and all Protestant traditions that I know of, nothing happens. The church is empty and locked. In Catholic churches, the tables and altars are intentionally stripped bare.
What happens on Saturday? Nothing. My personal calendar is bare. The church calendar is bare. Nobody schedules events on the Saturday before Easter.
What was Saturday like?
For those who knew Jesus, you have to wonder if it was the day of just....flat. Numbness. Denial. You know, those early stages of grief. It was the day they had nothing to do but return to life as they knew it before they began following Jesus around. It must have seemed like they had been dreaming and had now woken up again in their real life. This day, for them, would have been their Sabbath. The day to "go to church." But can you imagine it? If ever they had gone through the motions, it would have been that Saturday. God felt absent. "Normal church" felt unfulfilling; heck, maybe even boring compared to being with Jesus. "It's back to my life of working and just trying to get by," I imagine they thought.
I don't know about you, but I think I somewhat know what that's like. You have some amazing experiences. You're challenged, you grow, you're energized. Life is meaningful. And then...just...flat. Let's call it Flat Saturday. The equilibrium of your life is restored. You're back to what you know and recognize, which feels good and depressing all at the same time.
Just when you're convinced you were dreaming it all or it was only fleeting, God shows up again. And no one could have told you beforehand. You wouldn't have believed it. But now, the mundane and the bad and sinful are about to experience resurrection.
Remember: "Easter," that first resurrection day, was the day after the Sabbath. So the next time Sunday worship seems mundane and routine, watch out. God might show up on Monday.