Holy Saturday

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Not to be confused with Easter Saturday.
Holy Saturday
Cristo yacente Gregorio Fernandez.jpg
Statue of Jesus lying in the tomb (Monastery of San Joaquín y Santa Ana, Valladolid)
Official name Holy Saturday
Also called Easter Eve, Black Saturday
Observed by Christians
Type Religious
Significance Marks the day Jesus Christ's body lay in the tomb
Date Day before Easter
2013 date

30 March (Western)

4 May (Eastern)
2014 date

19 April (Western)

19 April (Eastern)
2015 date

4 April (Western)

11 April (Eastern)
2016 date

26 March (Western)

30 April (Eastern)
Frequency annual
Related to Easter

Holy Saturday (Latin: Sabbatum Sanctum) i.e. the Saturday of Holy Week, also known as the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, or Easter Eve,[1] and called "Joyous Saturday" or "the Saturday of Light" among the Copts, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter. It commemorates the day that Jesus Christ's body lay in the tomb.

Holy Saturday is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Easter Saturday,[2] while on the religious calendar this term is applied to the Saturday in Easter Week.[3]

On this day, the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows is assigned the title Our Lady of Solitude, referring to her solace and lonely emotional state associated with grief and mourning.

Western practice[edit]

Benedictine monks singing Vespers on Holy Saturday

In Roman Catholic churches, the chancel remains stripped completely bare (following the Mass on Maundy Thursday) while the administration of the sacraments is severely limited. Holy Communion, except for the Good Friday service, is given only as Viaticum to the dying. Baptism, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick may be administered because they, like Viaticum, are helpful to ensuring salvation for the dying.

All Masses are severely limited. No Mass at all appears in the normal liturgy for this day, although Mass can be said on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday for an extremely grave or solemn situation with a dispensation from the Vatican or the local bishop. Many of the churches of the Anglican Communion as well as Lutheran, Methodist, and some other Churches observe most of the same; however, their altars may be covered in black instead of being stripped.

In some Anglican churches, including the Episcopal Church in the United States, provision is made for a simple Liturgy of the Word on this day, with readings commemorating the burial of Christ. Daily Offices are still observed. In the Moravian churches in North America, the day is known as Great Sabbath. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer uses Easter Eve to designate the day.

Liturgically speaking, Holy Saturday lasts until 6pm or dusk, after which the Easter Vigil is celebrated, marking the official start of the Easter season. The rubrics [4] state that the Easter Vigil must take place in the night; it must begin after nightfall and end before dawn. The service may start with a fire and the lighting of the new Paschal candle. In Roman Catholic and some Anglican observance, the Mass is the first Mass since that of Maundy Thursday, and during it, the "Gloria" - which has been absent during Lent - is used, and during that "Gloria", the church statues and icons, in places where they are covered with purple veils during Passiontide, are dramatically unveiled. Some Anglican churches prefer to celebrate Easter and the lighting of the new Paschal candle at dawn on Easter Day. Baptisms may take place in this service and Baptism vows are often renewed.

Eastern practice[edit]

The icon of Holy and Great Saturday, portraying the Harrowing of Hades

In Eastern Orthodoxy this day, known as Holy and Great Saturday, is also called The Great Sabbath since it is on this day that Christ "rested" physically in the tomb. But it is also believed that it was on this day he performed in spirit the Harrowing of Hades and raised up to Paradise those who had been held captive there. In the Coptic, Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches, this day is known as Joyous Saturday.

Matins of Holy and Great Saturday (usually held on Friday evening as per ancient church tradition based on Jewish practices)[citation needed] takes the form of a funeral service for Christ. The entire service takes place around the Epitaphios (Slavonic: Plashchanitsa), an icon in the form of a cloth embroidered with the image of Christ being prepared for burial. The first part of the service consists of chanting Psalm 118 with hymns (enkomia) interspersed between the psalm verses. The predominant theme of the service is not so much one of mourning, but of watchful expectation:[5]

Today Thou dost keep holy the seventh day,
Which Thou has blessed of old by resting from Thy works.
Thou bringest all things into being and Thou makest all things new,
Observing the Sabbath rest, my Saviour, and restoring strength.[6]

Near the end of Matins, following the Lauds, at the end of the Great Doxology, the Epitaphios is taken up and carried in procession around the outside of the church, while all sing the Trisagion, exactly as is done in an Orthodox funeral service.

Beginning of the epitaphios procession at Great Saturday Mattins

On Saturday afternoon, a vesperal Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, is celebrated, called the First Resurrection service (Greek: Ἡ Πρώτη Ἀνάστασις), named because it is earlier chronologically than the later service drawn up by St John Damascene, rather than because it occurs earlier liturgically.[7] This is the longest Divine Liturgy of the entire year and the latest. After the Little Entrance there are 15 Old Testament readings which recall the history of salvation. Just before the Gospel reading (Matthew 28:1-20) the hangings, altar cloths, and vestments are changed from black to white and the deacon performs a censing of the church. In the Greek tradition the clergy strew laurel leaves and flower petals all over the church to symbolize the shattered gates and broken chains of hell and Jesus' victory over death. While the liturgical atmosphere changes from sorrow to joy at this service, the Paschal greeting, "Christ is risen!" is not exchanged until after the Paschal Vigil later that night, and the faithful continue to fast. The reason for this is that the Divine Liturgy on Holy and Great Saturday represents the proclamation of Jesus' victory over death to those in Hades, but the Resurrection has not yet been announced to those on earth (this will take place during the Paschal Vigil).

Divine Liturgy of Holy Saturday in a Greek Orthodox church in the United States

Great Lent was originally the period of catechesis for new converts in order to prepare them for baptism and chrismation on Pascha (Easter). Prior to the composition of the current Paschal Vigil of St John of Damascus[8] this day's vesperal liturgy was the main Easter celebration,[citation needed] and the traditional time to receive converts is during the vesperal divine liturgy.

In the afternoon, the faithful traditionally gather in church for the reading of the Acts of the Apostles in its entirety. Preceding midnight the Paschal Vigil begins with the Midnight Office, during which the Canon of Holy Saturday is repeated. Then, all of the candles and lights in the church are extinguished, and all wait in darkness and silence for the proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ.

Cultural traditions[edit]

Święconka (Polish pronunciation: [ɕvʲɛnˈtsɔnka]), meaning "the blessing of the Easter baskets" on Holy Saturday is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions.

In the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, the day is both legally and commonly called Black Saturday, as a sign of mourning. Commercial establishments, television and radio operate on shorter hours or remain closed, while traditional taboos on merrymaking and meat are carried over from the previous day. After the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council, the term Sábado de Gloria (Spanish for Gloria Saturday) also became widely used, referring to the first performance during the Easter Vigil of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo since Quinquagesima Sunday.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Public Report on Audience Complaints and Comments, April-June 2006". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  2. ^ For example, the New South Wales Public Holidays Act 2010
  3. ^ "Confusing Easter Dates". The Liturgical Commission of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Roman Missal, 3rd Edition. 
  5. ^ Kallistos (Ware), Bishop; Mary, Mother (1977). The Lenten Triodion. South Canaan PA: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press (published 2002). p. 63. ISBN 1-878997-51-3. OCLC 189871515. 
  6. ^ Matins Canon of Holy and Great Saturday, Ode 4
  7. ^ Parry, Ken; Melling, David J.; Brady, Dimitri; Griffith, Sidney H.; Healey, John F. (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 390-391. ISBN 0-631-23203-6. 
  8. ^ Parry et al. (1999), p. 390

References[edit]

External links[edit]