Today is the ultimate Remembrance Day

Arguments for Easter v There can be no festivity without mourning, argues Margaret Hebblethwaite, in the second of our Easter series. Tomorrow's Alleluias are empty otherwise.

Let's get one thing straight. Today is not Easter Saturday. It is Holy Saturday. Easter begins tomorrow, at "early dawn" (Luke xxiv, 1). Easter Saturday is next week.

Holy Saturday, today, is a day of mourning, of deadness, of the empty pain of loss and the dull shock of bereavement. It is the ultimate Remembrance Day, a time for remembering death by torture. It is a day when Christians beg the secular world to respect our grief. Spare us the tastelessness of fairground music, of invitations to parties, of holiday noise and clatter.

We do not ask anyone to make a false show of faith. We just want a little sensitivity and the easing of social pressures. Christians in the United States asked - and were granted - a postponement of the general release of the controversial film Priest from Good Friday to the week after Easter, not because they necessarily disapproved of the film (though many did) but because the timing "crossed the line of decency".

There is something odd about the secular custom of celebrating Easter but not Holy Week. It is as though non-Christians believed Jesus rose without believing that he died - the opposite of what you would expect. But we live in a world that, for all its professed lack of "the feel-good factor", is determined to have festivity without mourning.

It would not be a bad idea for everyone, of any faith or none, to keep this week in memory of those whom liberation theologians call "the crucified peoples of the world". Only a regular and sober reflection of the facts of persecution and misery will shock us into the determination that the world must be ordered more justly. The real political will to effect change can only come when we have been driven by the horror of our recollections to cry out: "But these things must never happen again."

Two thousand years ago a man was nailed naked to planks and was mocked by crowds as he hung by his hands and feet, until he died from breathlessness and exhaustion. Today, comparable obscenities still go on. In prisons scattered around the world, people are deprived of sleep; they are burned; they are beaten; they have their heads ducked under water until they lose consciousness; they are tied to metal bedframes and have electric probes applied to their sexual parts. In Iraq, men have their hands sliced off.

Not in our country, we may think, and yet our ancestors carried out tortures of comparable brutality. In Britain too, people have had their hands cut off, or their ears, or been branded on the forehead or cheeks. They have had their tongues bored through with a hot iron, or lived with fetters around their ankles for years causing sores that never healed. They have sat crouched in the dark in a tiny 4ft-by-4ft chamber in the Tower, or had their intestines cut out and dangled before their eyes. They have been fed on bad bread with no water one day, and dirty water with no bread the next, until they died of starvation. They have been crushed on the Scavenger's Daughter, until the blood burst out of their compressed bodies at the tips of the hands or feet or through the mouth and nostrils. Nowadays we do not mention thumbscrews unless to make jokes - jokes in monumentally bad taste.

Even today, in the United States, men are "fried" by electrocution, until their skin is stretched to breaking point, their flesh smells of cooked meat and their eyes pop out and rest on their cheeks. Today in Britain, a not dissimilar relish is displayed over the news that a certain woman should "rot in jail until she dies" (the Sun, 17 December 1994).

These tortures of the past and present, evoked by the Good Friday events, are well attested accounts that should revolt us all. It is the next instalment - tomorrow's joy - that we might expect to be a minority concern.

Tomorrow Christians will wake - those who have been to bed, for some will follow ancient custom in staying up all night waiting for the dawn - trembling with excitement because they believe the worst horrors imaginable have been overturned and the tomb of death is empty. Like their secular sisters and brothers, they will give eggs and flowers, but they will mean them as a symbol of faith in the risen life of Christ and a pledge of commitment to a new tomorrow.

They will ring bells and sing Alleluias and repeat "Christ is risen, he is risen indeed", and their cries will break out from the profundity of their hearts because this week, like a spring depressed, will have taken them to the pits before catapulting them to the heights. Do not rob us of our Holy Week: there is no Easter without it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice