Holy Saturday is the final day of Holy Week, the final day of the traditional 40 day Lenten Fast, and a part of the Triduum, and commemorates Jesus lying in the tomb until his resurrection on Easter Sunday. In 2014, Holy Saturday falls on the morning and afternoon of April 19th.

Basic Facts

Liturgical Color(s): Violet (Purple)

Type of Holiday: Part of Paschal Triduum

Time of Year: The Saturday of Holy Week

Duration: 1 day

Celebrates/Symbolizes: Waiting at the Tomb of Jesus, meditating on His Death

Alternate Names: Sabbatum Sanctum, Black Saturday

Scriptural References

Matthew 27:45-61

Mark 15:42-47

The Death of Jesus

(Psalm 22:1-31; Mark 15:33-41; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:28-30)

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour.

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

47 And some that stood there and heard, said: This man calleth Elias.

48 And immediately one of them running took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar; and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

49 And the others said: Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to deliver him.

50 And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

51 And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent.

52 And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose,

53 And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many.

54 Now the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake, and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: Indeed this was the Son of God.

55 And there were there many women afar off, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:

56 Among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

The Burial of Jesus

(Isaiah 53:9-12; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)

57 And when it was evening, there came a certain rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus.

58 He went to Pilate, and asked the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded that the body should be delivered.

59 And Joseph taking the body, wrapped it up in a clean linen cloth.

60 And laid it in his own new monument, which he had hewed out in a rock. And he rolled a great stone to the door of the monument, and went his way.

61 And there was there Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary sitting over against the sepulcher.

The Burial of Jesus

(Isaiah 53:9-12; Matthew 27:57-61; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)

42 And when evening was now come, (because it was the Parasceve, that is, the day before the Sabbath,)

43 Joseph of Arimathea, a noble counsellor, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.

44 But Pilate wondered that he should be already dead. And sending for the centurion, he asked him if he were already dead.

45 And when he had understood it by the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

46 And Joseph buying fine linen, and taking him down, wrapped him up in the fine linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewed out of a rock. And he rolled a stone to the door of the sepulchre.

47 And Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joseph, beheld where he was laid.

John 19:38-42

The Burial of Jesus

(Isaiah 53:9-12; Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56)

38 And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore, and took the body of

Jesus.

39 And Nicodemus also came, (he who at the first came to Jesus by night,) bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

40 They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

41 Now there was in the place where he was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man yet had been laid.

42 There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Introduction

Holy Saturday, Sabbatum Sanctum in Latin, is the last day of Holy Week, and the 40th day of the traditional Lenten fast, although Lent ends liturgically on the evening of Holy Thursday. The evening of Holy Saturday begins the third and final day of the Paschal Triduum. In the Latin Church, no Masses are celebrated on Holy Saturday, and the day is essentially a sparse time of reflection upon Christ's death and burial in anticipation of the Great Vigil of Easter (Paschal Vigil). The vigil usually begins the night of Holy Saturday, lasting until Easter morning. Very little happens on Holy Saturday, that is until the beginning of the Great Paschal Vigil.

There is deep symbolism for Christian reflection on Holy Saturday. On this day, the Church waits at the Lord's tomb, and meditates on His Passion and Death and His descent into Hell. With prayer and fasting we await His glorious Easter resurrection. Mary is also a Holy Saturday symbol. According to Catholic tradition, Mary represents the entire body of the Church. As she awaited in faith for the victorious triumph of Her Son over death on the first Holy Saturday, so we too wait with Mary on the present Holy Saturday. This faithful and prayerful symbolic waiting has been called the Ora della Madre or Hour of the Mother.

History

Also known as the Easter Vigil (a name more properly applied to the Mass on Holy Saturday night), Holy Saturday has had a long and varied history. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "in the early Church this was the only Saturday on which fasting was permitted." Fasting is a sign of penance, but on Good Friday, Christ paid with His own Blood the debt of our sins. Thus, for many centuries, Christians regarded both Saturday and Sunday, the day of Christ's Resurrection, as days on which fasting was forbidden. (That practice is still reflected in the Lenten disciplines of the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, which lighten their fasts slightly on Saturdays and Sundays.)

As on Good Friday, there is no Mass offered for Holy Saturday. The Easter Vigil Mass, which takes place after sundown on Holy Saturday, properly belongs to Easter Sunday, since liturgically, each day begins at sundown on the previous day. (That is why Saturday vigil Masses can fulfill our Sunday Duty.) Unlike on Good Friday, when Holy Communion is distributed at the afternoon liturgy commemorating Christ's Passion, on Holy Saturday the Eucharist is only given to the faithful as viaticum—that is, only to those in danger of death, to prepare their souls.

n the early Church, Christians gathered on the afternoon of Holy Saturday to pray and to confer the Sacrament of Baptism on catechumens—converts to Christianity who had spent Lent preparing to be received into the Church. (As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, in the early Church, "Holy Saturday and the vigil of Pentecost were the only days on which baptism was administered.") This vigil lasted through the night until dawn on Easter Sunday, when the Alleluia was sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent, and the faithful—including the newly baptized—broke their 40-hour fast by receiving Communion.

In the Middle Ages, beginning roughly in the eighth century, the ceremonies of the Easter Vigil, especially the blessing of new fire and the lighting of the Easter candle, began to be performed earlier and earlier. Eventually, these ceremonies were performed on Holy Saturday morning. The whole of Holy Saturday, originally a day of mourning for the crucified Christ and of expectation of His Resurrection, now became little more than an anticipation of the Easter Vigil.

With the reform of the liturgies for Holy Week in 1956, those ceremonies were returned to the Easter Vigil itself (that is, to the Mass celebrated after sundown on Holy Saturday), and thus the original character of Holy Saturday was restored.

Until the revision of the rules for fasting and abstinence in 1969, strict fasting and abstinence continued to be practiced on the morning of Holy Saturday, thus reminding the faithful of the sorrowful nature of the day and preparing them for the joy of Easter feast. While fasting and abstinence are no longer required on Holy Saturday morning, practicing these Lenten disciplines is still a good way to observe this sacred day.

Traditions and Symbols

Frequently Asked Questions

Traditions

Blessing of Easter Foods

Preparing for Easters

Decorating Easter Eggs

Observing the Ora della Madre

Symbols

Christ's Tomb

Mary Waiting by Christ's Tomb

1. What is the Paschal Triduum?

The Paschal Triduum, often called the Easter Triduum or simply the Triduum, consists of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. This includes the Great Easter Vigil, the high point of the Triduum. The word Triduum comes from the Latin word meaning "three days." It begins the evening of Maundy Thursday and ends at Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday. Thus the Triduum consists of three full days which begin and end in the evening. In the Catholic Church, the Triduum technically is not part of Lent (at least liturgically), but Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are still reckoned as part of the traditional forty day Lenten fast. The Triduum celebrates the heart of our faith and salvation: the death and resurrection of Christ, and is thus the high point of the liturgical year. For more information, visit our page, All About the Paschal Triduum. Please note that many Protestant churches do not recognize the Triduum as a liturgical season distinct from Lent, so in many Protestant churches, Lent includes and ends on Holy Saturday.
This page written by .

Mediation

Holy Saturday: He Descended into Hell

 

By an Unknown Early Church Father

 

This Holy Saturday reading on the descent of the Lord Jesus into Hell is used in the Roman Church's Office of Readings for Holy Saturday, with the accompanying biblical reading of Hebrews 4:1-13.  The "harrowing of hell" and the rescue of Adam and Eve was a popular theme in early and medieval Christian poetry, liturgy and song.  Note the parallels here between Adam and Eve's sin, which lost paradise for us, and the passion of Christ, which won for us not simply an earthly paradise, but eternal life.  While it appears that this comes from a Holy Saturday homily written in Greek dating back to the fourth century liturgy (PG 43, 439, 462f), the author of this text is unknown.

 

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.


He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”. 


I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. 


See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree. 


I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you. 


Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity. 

 

Holy Saturday Responsory:

 

Our shepherd, the source of the water of life, has died.

The sun was darkened when he passed away.

But now man's captor is made captive.

-- This is the day when our Savior broke through the gates of death.

 

He has destroyed the barricades of hell,

overthrown the sovereignty of the devil.

-- This is the day when our Savior broke through the gates of death

 

Holy Saturday Prayer:

All-powerful and ever-living God, your only Son went down among the dead and rose again in glory.  In your goodness raise up your faithful people, buried with him in baptism, to be one with him in the eternal life of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

 
Daily Meditation by
2013 
Don Schwager


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