DPPL 146: Holy Saturday

STA altar at night smallThe day begins in quiet and deep reflection. Saturday begins with anticipation:

146. “On Holy Saturday, the Church pauses at the Lord’s tomb, meditating his Passion and Death, his descent into Hell, and, with prayer and fasting, awaits his resurrection” (CDWDS, Lettera circolare sulla preparazione e celebrazione delle feste pasquali,73).

I’ve been in many places where bread and other objects were blessed on the day of Easter Eve. These Easter practices are discouraged until after the Vigil:

Popular piety should not be impervious to the peculiar character of Holy Saturday. The festive customs and practices connected with this day, on which the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection was once anticipated, should be reserved for the vigil and for Easter Sunday.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to DPPL 146: Holy Saturday

  1. FrMichael says:

    I have been looking for an icon with the Harrowing of Hell to place in the church the morning of Holy Saturday. So far no luck. Anybody know an iconographer who can write such an icon?

  2. crystal says:

    I don’t know what to make of Holy Saturday. The idea that Jesus went to hell seems to be just a tradition, not based on the NT … (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/did-jesus-spend-saturday-in-hell–2)
    I like this poem about that day – “Saturday Night in the Tomb” by William Coleman ….

    I like to imagine Him dancing there,
    testing his limbs’ limits once more, fitting
    back into his body the way we might
    slip back again into a forgotten
    favorite shirt crumpled in the closet,
    finding ourselves wrapped in an old love’s
    scent and remembering the moonflowers
    opening in our gaze, steadying
    for another long, glorious night of worship.
    That’s the God I believe in—the one
    who can’t wait to roll back the rock, leave nothing
    behind, make an appearance everywhere,
    yet who still loves these nights alone, the cool
    darkness of His room, that sweet, solitary
    music that keeps Him humming long after the dying’s done.

    • Liam says:

      Well, for Catholics and Orthodox Christians, since traditions predate the adoption of the Biblical canon in the 4th century (the same century in which the Apostles Creed mentioned the descent of Jesus to hell, though the idea was in earlier Patristic writings), the fact that something is not in the Bible is not dispositive. In any event, the idea is the Jesus fully experienced the death that humanity had heretofore tasted. The idea behind THAT idea is that, if Jesus did not fully experience death, then his resurrection was not full, either. And this goes back to combating Gnostic beliefs that were not comfortable with the Incarnation, et cet. There is a chain to all of this; it’s not merely pious superstition.

      • crystal says:

        Interesting. Was it thought, then, that everyone, good or bad, who had died prior to Jesus’ death had gone to hell or sheol and that’s why Jesus was seen as rescuing them on Holy Saturday?

      • Liam says:

        Yes. They were still subject to death and, in the Western tradition, what we call original sin, even if they had committed no actual, personal sin. The icons of the Anastasis (Resurrection, typically called Harrowing of Hell in Western usage) show Jesus trampling over the doors to hell, and a figure (sometimes depicted as a skeleton) symbolising Death – as the Eastern churches say, trampling down Death by death and bringing Life to those in the tomb – often with keys to the doors on the ground, and chains broken. My personal favorite depiction of this in a Western cathedral is found in the mosaic of an arch over the nave of San Marco in Venice:

      • Liam says:

        PS: Traditionally, Adam and Eve are the figures of the first Patriarch and Matriarch to leave Hell….

  3. crystal says:

    Thanks. Beautiful mosaic :)

  4. FrMichael says:

    Crystal, thanks for the link. I will look at the iconographer’s work. That’s a good poem. I offer here a link to the second reading of Holy Saturday, the outstanding ancient homily on the Harrowing: http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20010414_omelia-sabato-santo_en.html

    Liam, as always, a cogent explanation from you. We still await your own blog.

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