When is Holy Saturday (07.05.2018)
Observed in Saturday before Easter
Observed on Countries with Christian populations
Observed by Christians
Since the Jewish day of rest is Saturday, Holy Saturday is regarded as the second Sabbath after Creation. It is the day Jesus lay in the tomb before rising from the dead on Easter Sunday.
This is considered the final day of Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday and includes Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Because it marks the threshold between death and resurrection, it is a day of silence and contemplation for devout Christians.
Jesus of Nazareth was the teacher whose life and words provided the foundation for Christianity.
The promised miracle of his Resurrection is amplified by this sacred day of waiting. The church waits as the Virgin Mary once did, in faith. She is both Theotokos (Mother of God) and the symbol of the church.
Origins and History
As Jesus lay in the tomb, the Pharisees and others asked Pontius Pilate to seal it, fearing that his disciples would remove the body and claim a “Resurrection.” The tomb was, indeed, sealed, and guards posted. As the scriptures tell us, Jesus went to the world of the dead and redeemed them with his own death.
Holy Saturday is part of the Easter Triduum that begins on the evening of Maundy Thursday and concludes with the evening service on Easter. The Easter Triduum is a fifth- and sixth-century practice preceded by the Easter Biduum-a two-day period of fasting that included the Easter Vigil. These are “the days of silence” or the “still days,” and Good Friday and Holy Saturday are aliturgical days: The clergy cannot receive Communion, and there is no Mass because these are the days that Jesus was taken away from humanity. Holy Saturday (together with Good Friday) are the only times on the Christian calendar that have no Mass in the liturgy The fourth century saw the earliest celebrations of Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Originally, all church services were suspended during the day. This was a day of meditation, of remembering the Christian martyrs as well as dead relatives and dear ones, of awaiting the Resurrection.
In the early years of the church, this was the only Saturday marked out for fasting. The fast was strict, lasting 40 hours before Easter. Different countries observed different schedules to break the fast, but, traditionally, it was broken at dawn.
From the first to the sixth or seventh centuries, the Easter Vigil, or Easter Watch, began soon after sundown and continued through the night so that the Alleluia (or Hallelujah) could be said at the moment of Resurrection. (According to one estimated calculation, this took place on April 17, 30 C.E.) The Vigil began with the blessing of the new fire (which symbolized the church), and the lighting of the Paschal candle of pure beeswax (representing Jesus) that would remain lit until his Ascension 40 days after Easter. The beauty of the night can be gauged by St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s remark that the night became as bright as day. Toward the end of the fourth century and onward, the Roman Emperor Constantine (d. 337) made the twilight hours even more majestic by ordering lamps and torches to illumine not only the basilicas but also the houses and streets. Within the church, the congregation sat in silence, breaking it only to join in the chanting and the singing of psalms. New adherents-catechumens-were baptized. This day, and the Vigil of the Pentecost, were the only days when converts could be baptized. It was not until the Middle Ages that Holy Saturday was established worldwide as a holy day.
The practice of lighting the lamps at twilight was introduced into the Gallican Church (Church of France) in the eighth century. This was also the period when the ceremonies were shifted to the afternoon and, soon enough, to the morning. Consequently, the day that had hitherto been without any special service, apart from the Vigil, was accorded other religious observances, depending on whether it is an Eastern Orthodox or Western Church.
Holy Saturday recalls the silence of the tomb at the same time that it looks ahead to the promise of life. This aspect is reflected in the practices of contemplation and prayer and in the preparations for the Easter feast.
In Roman Catholic churches, the altar is bare and Holy Communion and Penance are provided only to those on the verge of death. The proximity to Easter notwithstanding, this is not a day of joy.
The church stands watch over Jesus’ tomb just as the Virgin Mary did, waiting for the Resurrection.
The Easter Vigil will begin at 10 P.M., and a Mass will be held at midnight.
Water is blessed during the Vigil, and this holy water will be used for baptisms and other purposes of the church. Participants will also be given some to take home for their own use.
In Greek Orthodox Churches the service recalls the act of Joseph of Arimathea wrapping Jesus’ body, and the stress is, as always, on the joy of the Resurrection rather than on Jesus’ death. For example, the Kontakion (a part of the liturgy of the Orthodox Church) states that, “This Sabbath is blessed above all others, for Christ, having fallen asleep, will rise on the third day.” The service also recalls Jesus’ descent into Hades, a prison for the souls of all who died, not to be confused with hell. Inevitably, the divine nature of Jesus overwhelmed the place, the gates broke, as did the chains that held the souls, and the dead were also resurrected.