Holy Saturday

The last day of Lent is a curious day. It is still Lent, still the season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, still the season of penitence. Practically speaking, however, it is a day of transition, a day that is consumed with preparations for the coming feast. At church, there is silver and brass to be polished and flowers to be arranged. Fresh linens and paraments must be readied for the Altar, the Paschal Candle must be unpacked, and arrangements for the New Fire and Easter Baptisms must be made. At home, there are special foods to prepare, eggs to decorate, and a festive table to be set. Unlike the other Saturdays of Lent, this is not a day for quiet contemplation.

With all of this pressure and activity, it may be well to remind ourselves that while the disciples may have spent the sabbath in quiet, and fearful, seclusion, this is also the day when Scripture and the Creed tell us that the Crucified Lord was not lying peacefully in the tomb. Rather, this is the day he descended into hell and preached to the dead. It is the last sabbath of the ancient dispensation, and the day of preparation for the New Creation, a day of rest, to be sure, but a day of anticipation, full of wonder and excitement at what God is doing.

Into the dim earth’s lowest parts descending,
And bursting by Thy might the infernal chain
That bound the prisoners, Thou, at three days’ ending,
As Jonah from the whale, hast risen again.

Thou brakest not the seal, Thy surety’s token,
Arising from the tomb Who left’st in birth
The portals of virginity unbroken,
Opening the gates of Heaven to sons of earth.

Thou, Sacrifice ineffable and living,
Didst to the Father by Thyself atone
As God eternal: resurrection giving
To Adam, general parent, by Thine own.


John of Damascus, 8th Century
translated from Greek by John M. Neale in
Hymns of the Eastern Church

Easter is the Queen of Feasts and just as the liturgical celebration is both elaborate and exuberant, so should the home celebration be. If you have an Easter Candle, or icons with lamps, it is appropriate to light them with the New Fire from the Paschal Candle (be sure to have a safe way to transport the flame from church to home). A variety of foods are appropriate to the Easter dinner. Consider creating an Easter Garden and, of course, there will be decorated eggs.

 

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