Saint Brigid Religious Education
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Holy Days

Holy Saturday

This is the seventh day of the week, the day Jesus rested in the tomb. In the first three Gospel accounts this was the Jewish Sabbath, which provided appropriate symbolism of the seventh day rest. While some church traditions continue daily services on Saturday, there is no communion served on this day. This day between Good Friday and Easter Day makes present to us the end of one world and the complete newness of the era of salvation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.

Some traditions suspend services and Scripture readings during the day on Saturday, to be resumed at the Easter Vigil after sundown Saturday. It is traditionally a day of quiet meditation as Christians contemplate the darkness of a world without a future and without hope apart from God and his grace.

It is also a time to remember family and the faithful who have died as we await the resurrection, or to honor the martyrs who have given their lives for the cause of Christ in the world. While Good Friday is a traditional day of fasting, some also fast on Saturday as the climax of the season of Lent. An ancient tradition dating to the first centuries of the church calls for no food of any kind to be eaten on Holy Saturday, or for 40 hours before sunrise on Sunday. However it is observed, Holy Saturday has traditionally been a time of reflection and waiting, the time of weeping that lasts for the night while awaiting the joy that comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

In the primitive Church Holy Saturday was known as Great, or Grand, Saturday, Holy Saturday, the Angelic Night, the Vigil of Easter. It is no longer, like Maundy Thursday, a day of joy, but one of joy and sadness intermingled; it is the close of the season of Lent and penance, and the beginning of paschal time, which is one of rejoicing.

The night of the vigil of Easter has undergone a strange displacement. During the first six or seven centuries, ceremonies were in progress throughout the entire night, so that the Alleluia coincided with the day and moment of the Resurrection.

In the eighth century these same ceremonies were held on Saturday afternoon. On Saturday night the vigil opened with the blessing of the new fire, the lighting of lamps and candles and of the paschal candle.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem spoke of this night that was as bright as day, and Constantine the Great added unprecedented splendor to its brilliancy by a profusion of lamps and enormous torches, so that not only basilicas, but private houses, streets, and public squares were resplendent with the light that was symbolic of the Risen Christ.

The assembled faithful gave themselves up to common prayer, the singing of psalms and hymns, and the reading of the Scriptures commentated by the bishop or priests. The vigil of Easter was especially devoted to the baptism of catechumens who, in the more important churches, were very numerous.

On the Holy Saturday following the deposition of St. John Chrysostom from the See of Constantinople, there were 3000 catechumens in this church alone. Such numbers were, of course, only encountered in large cities. But nevertheless, as Holy Saturday and the vigil of Pentecost were the only days on which baptism was administered, even in smaller churches there was always a good number of catechumens.

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