On Good Friday, we again experienced the folly of the Cross. The Lord is dead and has been laid in the tomb. The Shepherd has been struck and the sheep have scattered. And as these events unfolded, darkness and silence fell upon the earth.

Holy Saturday is always a strange day. The world seems eerily still and it feels as though we are between two distinct places – neither in one nor the other. There is an air of waiting, of expectancy. Something is coming. Someone is coming.

In the quiet of this day, perhaps our minds will go back and ponder on words we have heard previously, spoken prophetically in the early part of the Gospel of Luke, foretelling that the Child held in the arms of Mary then lifted up by Simeon will be ‘a sign of contradiction’ (cf.Lk 2:35). Today, amidst the darkness and sorrow of Holy Saturday, these words seem foolish – the Cross is a sign of ignominy, not contradiction. It is a sign of death, of loss, of failure. Christ has died. And yet, the words were spoken with such authority. Simeon spoke them as he gazed upon a little Child, declaring that “my eyes have seen the Salvation which You have made ready .. a light of revelation .. and glory” (cf. Lk 2:30-32). Where, then, is that light, that glory? We can see only darkness.

Archbishop Aquila of Denver prepares to light the Paschal Candle. Photo © Daniel Petty / DCR

The darkness of night is always followed by the first light of dawn. The darkness of this particular night may be the darkest, but it will vanish as the new dawn breaks tomorrow; with the rising of the Son on Easter Morning, that darkness will be forever conquered. Death will be conquered; but more than this, it will receive a new meaning. Now, it will not be a closed gate but a door opening into new and eternal life. Here, then, is the light of revelation and of glory of which Simeon spoke.

The Cross of Christ will indeed be “a sign of contradiction”; it will symbolise a beginning, not an ending – life, not death. Did the Lord Himself not tell us that “when I am lifted up, I will draw all things to Myself”? (cf. Jn12:32). With all the Church, we adore the wood of the Cross, on which our Saviour hung. This Cross is become the key which unlocks for us the gates of Heaven. With the Church, we will sing – ‘Ave Crux, spes unica’ (‘hail the Cross, our only hope’).

Tonight, in Churches across the world, the Paschal Candle will be lit, symbolising the Light of Christ, risen and glorious, burning eternally. Our Priests will sing three times the words – “The Light of Christ”, and we will respond – “thanks be to God”.

Truly, the Cross of Christ is ‘a sign of contradiction’.