It was the Friday before the July Fourth holiday, and as I cleared the dinner dishes I said to my husband, “It’s seemed like Saturday all day today.”
“Every day is Saturday,” he replied drolly as he filled the dishwasher.
Welcome to the summer of COVID-19.
If you’re going to work outside your home each day, Saturday may still have meaning. But even if you’re working from home, the days blur. As someone joked one Friday on Twitter, “Thank God it’s … probably Friday.”
Like millions of Americans, I’ve missed the coffee dates, the committee meetings, dinner parties, restaurants, date nights in movie theaters, volunteer activities, pilgrimages to the local library, Mass in person at my parish. And, of course, browsing through shops without a mask.
I did not board a flight for a scheduled trip to Europe. I have not flown to see my kids. My mother-in-law died and was cremated without our presence. Her memorial services await a time when we can all travel from several states.
July brings a strange interlude. How to adapt now? People are tired of this new “normal” that is so abnormal. How do we safely reemerge? Or do we? July seems an odd, in-between time.
After dinner, sitting on the front porch on not-Saturday, I thought about one of the most significant Saturdays of the year, Holy Saturday.
Maybe I should sit in Holy Saturday for a while and feel the reality of the Holy Saturday we are experiencing as a nation.
I’ve heard it said we live much of our lives in a Holy Saturday frame of mind. Between the horror of Good Friday and the glory of Easter, that day was lived in questions. It encompassed bitter disappointment, sorrow, the brutal dashing of hope, exhaustion. It probably seemed like a never-ending day.
For Christ’s disciples on Holy Saturday, optimism was absent. Friends scattered and mourned. They hiked to Emmaus to get away, or like Thomas, they coupled their sorrow with doubt.
Maybe we’ve reached our COVID Holy Saturday moment.
It was almost easier in the beginning, when we all accepted shutdown, when we felt like we were in this together, when the rules seemed to apply to everyone, when we hoped it would end quickly.
Now, we have no national plan or leadership. Shutdowns are up to states, sometimes to cities. The governor of South Dakota tells people at the Mount Rushmore ceremony to disregard social distancing; the Texas governor pleads with his citizens to wear masks. And our numbers, among the worst in the world, frighten us.
Knowing that this pandemic will drag on, we adjust. Our parishes begin to reopen, but in restricted ways, older folks warned away.
Bars open, only to reveal large numbers infected at certain establishments. Beaches are full, then some close again. In the beginning of the crisis, jokes abounded about how hard it was to keep your parents at home; now it seems as if older people are the most dedicated to social distancing, and by doing so become the most isolated.
Holy Saturday reminds us this too shall pass. We’re in a limbo we didn’t choose but which we accept as Christians. We accept this may be a nadir for our nation right now, a dreary Holy Saturday but one from which we will emerge stronger.
Unlike the disciples who did not yet understand the Resurrection, we have the joy of placing our faith and hope in the risen Christ.
We spend time on our personal Holy Saturday with our risen Jesus, who reminds us once again not to fear.