A Great Silence on Earth: Holy Saturday
Those involved with tonight’s Easter Vigil likely have plenty of things to take care of today: preparing a homily, practicing with lectors and other ministers, making sure that all is set for the many details of the vigil, decorating the church, preparing a social, shining gold and other sacred vessels, and making last minute changes.
But for most of us, Holy Saturday is generally a quieter day. As we go about our Saturday and pre-Easter tasks, let us give some time to reflect on the strange beauty of this day.
The day between Good Friday and the Easter Vigil is described in the Roman Missal.
“On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and Death and on his Descent into Hell, and awaiting his Resurrection.
The Church abstains from the Sacrifice of the Mass, with the sacred table left bare, until after the solemn Vigil … when the time comes for paschal joys, the abundance of which overflows to occupy fifty days.”
Churches that celebrate Holy Saturday traditionally do so by observing a day of somber reflection as they contemplate the world of darkness that would exist without the hope of Christ’s resurrection.
The Office of Readings for Holy Saturday includes a beautiful excerpt from an ancient homily for this day. It starts,
“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.”
The homily goes on to stress to us that, “Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, and 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.”