Holy Saturday

"Le Christ mort couché sur son linceul" by Philippe de Champaigne
“Le Christ mort couché sur son linceul” by Philippe de Champaigne

On Holy Saturday (Sabbatum Sanctum), the Church is, as it were, at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his passion and death and on his descent into hell, awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting. Holy Saturday is sacred as the day of the Lord’s rest; it has been called the “Second Sabbath” after creation. The day is and should be the most calm and quiet day of the entire Church year, a day broken by no liturgical function. Christ lies in the grave, the Church sits near and mourns. After the great battle He is resting in peace, but upon Him we see the scars of intense suffering…The mortal wounds on His Body remain visible….Jesus’ enemies are still furious, attempting to obliterate the very memory of the Lord by lies and slander.

The image of Christ crucified or lying in the tomb or the descent into hell, which mystery Holy Saturday recalls, as also an image of the sorrowful Virgin Mary, can be placed in the church for the veneration of the faithful. Only after the solemn vigil during the night, held in anticipation of the resurrection, does the Easter celebration begin, with a spirit of joy that overflows into the following period of fifty days.

The altar is left bare, and the sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated and Holy Communion may only be given in the form of Viaticum. Celebration of other sacraments, other than penance and anointing of the sick, is also forbidden.

Today we remember Christ in the tomb. It is not Easter yet, so it’s not time for celebration. Festive customs and traditions associated with this day because of the former practice of anticipating the celebration of Easter on Holy Saturday should be reserved for Easter night and the day that follows. There is a tradition of blessing food baskets that will be eaten on Easter. If there is no blessing for the Easter foods in the parish, the father of the family can pray the Blessing over the Easter foods. Another tradition, is also the blessing of the family home.

It is during the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday that the Easter Vigil is celebrated. The service begins around ten o’clock, in order that the solemn vigil Mass may start at midnight.

Virgin Mary

"The Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon" by Enguerrand Quarton
“The Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon” by Enguerrand Quarton

Mary and the disciples are grief-stricken, while the Church must mournfully admit that too many of her children return home from Calvary cold and hard of heart. When Mother Church reflects upon all of this, it seems as if the wounds of her dearly Beloved were again beginning to bleed.

According to tradition, the entire body of the Church is represented in Mary: she is the “credentium collectio universa” (Congregation for Divine Worship,Lettera circolare sulla preparazione e celebrazione delle feste pasquali, 73). Thus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she waits near the Lord’s tomb, as she is represented in Christian tradition, is an icon of the Virgin Church keeping vigil at the tomb of her Spouse while awaiting the celebration of his resurrection.

The pious exercise of the Ora di Maria is inspired by this intuition of the relationship between the Virgin Mary and the Church: while the body of her Son lays in the tomb and his soul has descended to the dead to announce liberation from the shadow of darkness to his ancestors, the Blessed Virgin Mary, foreshadowing and representing the Church, awaits, in faith, the victorious triumph of her Son over death.

Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy

"Saint Isidor of Sevilla" by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
“Saint Isidor of Sevilla” by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

St Isidore

Outside Holy Week, today is also the Feast of St Isidore of Seville, , who succeeded his brother St. Leander as Archbishop of Seville and was one of the great bishops of the seventh century. He was proficient in all branches of knowledge and was regarded as one of the most learned men of his time; with Cassiodorus and Boethius he was one of the thinkers whose writings were most studied in the Middle Ages, St. Isidore died in 636. Pope Innocent XIII canonized him in 1722 and proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church.

Sources

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