Sometimes people ask me what I did before working as a Director of Advancement.
I was a Priest in the Church of England, is rarely the answer they are expecting to hear.
To my children and their friends, it is almost as bizarre as informing them that I used to be an astronaut. Even I have to smile quietly at the twists and turns that led me from there to here.
Much of that former life is left behind me these days. But there is one day in the Christian calendar that I still find filled with significance.
Today. Holy Saturday.
In his remarkable, yet impossibly complex, book, Real Presences, George Steiner describes this significance in a way that still resonates.
There is one particular day in Western history about which neither historical record nor myth nor Scripture make report. It is a Saturday. . . Ours is the long day’s journey of the Saturday. Between suffering, aloneness, unutterable waste on the one hand and the dream of liberation, of rebirth on the other.
Holy Saturday, in other words, is a day in which we find ourselves paused. It is a day of waiting, looking back on something that we have lost and looking forward to something that is still just beyond the horizon.
Walking through an empty campus this week, I was reminded that we all lost something. Some more than others. Some far more than others. That connection to a space that feels like home; that connection to each other and the memories that would have been ours to cherish for years to come; that connection to life’s transitions and the milestones that we so wanted to celebrate; that connection to a world beyond our front door. And even if we speak, write and tweet in hope about schools reopening and being better than ever before, these visions of the future are still dreamlike and intangible; still threatened by the dark shadow of economic realities and “second waves”.
Holy Saturday is traditionally a day of silence; it is a moment to pause.
But it doesn’t mean nothing is happening. According to Steiner, quite the contrary: this “Saturday living” is precisely the moment in which poetry and music occurs. Out of what he describes as this “immensity of waiting” a creative fire is sparked and we collectively reach towards a better future.
Perhaps that is why, as I look around at everything my professional colleagues are doing, writing about, creating, imagining, I find myself convinced that tomorrow will be a better day.