Holy Saturday, ‘Homecoming: a film by Beyoncé,’ and an ode to the forsaken

I reckon a handful of people will call me sacrilegious as I make the connection between Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé and Holy Saturday. And yet, without a hint of doubt: watching the film during Holy Week felt no less timely and well-suited.

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In Homecoming, I was mesmerized by a legend whose formidable force did not need an escalated voice to narrate her story, but one that is almost as hushed as a whisper, intimately sharing with us the terrifying and painful journey of her pregnancy and the hard work she devoted to her exemplary return.

With a nostalgia from marching bands, chants, and cheers, we witnessed how Mrs. Carter and her team did not stop until they got it right. When a level of determination shows up like this, there must have been a message necessary to be delivered: “When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.”

What a time to be alive and to see the collective rigor and discipline that shaped musical history: Beyoncé as the first ever black woman to headline one of the most well-renowned music festivals in the world, accompanied by artists of color on a vast and vibrant stage. 

There was nothing impartial about their work. Audiences must see for themselves the beauty, talent, intelligence, creativity, and strength of a community—a community that the screen and stage had given little or no attention to, leaving them in the periphery for too long of a time. With the scarce representation of numerous artistic platforms (and with Coachella as no exemption), the collective coordination of the Homecoming team was necessary to make a memorable and fresh work of art—thoroughly conceptualized and excellently delivered by mostly black and brown artists and creators. The decision to install voiceovers by Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, and among other African-American writers, thinkers, and activists reeducated us that times have not changed enough, and equality and equity remain intangible. And again I say: when a level of determination shows up like this, there must be a message necessary to be delivered.

“Death is not a partial event,” Hans Urs von Balthasar recounts in Mysterium Paschale. Christ was in absolute solidarity with humanity’s death. And today, we observe Holy Saturday, which continues to be the most neglected part of the Triduum. It is easy to turn away from the grotesque and the ambiguous, and yet Holy Saturday’s quiet power demands our gaze to turn towards the abandoned, the forgotten, the silenced, the manipulated, the oppressed, the betrayed, the violated, and the perished… the very lives who endure Holy Saturday every single day, and who have felt like God’s face has turned away from them without reservation.

Could it be that our neglect of Holy Saturday also reflects our neglect of the most oppressed and invisible of lives, those of whom—just like Christ—are no stranger to violence, forsakenness, and death? I have always been so moved by how James Cone prophetically claimed that Christ enfleshed the black body, being an unarmed Jew who was wrongfully convicted and publicly executed by the systems and forces of empire. Here we see how the marginalized and oppressed exist in closest proximity to the life and suffering of Jesus Christ, and therefore have a greater appetite for resurrection and for things that are new. 

The magnificent ode of Homecoming beckons our attention to the suffering of a neglected and despised people, and hopefully convicts us of our malnourished hope and tendency to rush to Easter sunrise as a way to deny that death and despair exist in our world today. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter offers her life’s work, the best of who she is, and the most of what she has to not only deliver a humanizing and liberating message, but to create the space for her people and her ancestors to finally speak, sing, dance, and show the world their radiant glory and humanity. This, to me, is incarnational living. This to me is sitting well in the space and time between death and rebirth.

Reflection prompts on Holy Saturday:

  • The “greatness” of North America is founded on slavery and racism, genocide and colonization. Reflect on why we do not sit and speak well of the death and the gruesome details of our world today, including this nation’s history.
  • If you are a person of color or identify as a member of a minority community in the US: What is it like to consider my life to be a profound reflection of the Divine (however way you perceive it to be—may it be the Universe, etc.)?