Holy Saturday 2023 | Easter Vigil
Holy Saturday also known as Easter Vigil is the day before Easter Sunday, marks the last day of Holy Week. Its a space between Good Friday and Easter when we make preparation for Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday is the day of vigil culminating in the feast of the resurrection. For Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving known as Lent.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’s entrance into the city of Jerusalem, and concludes with his death on Holy Saturday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. During Holy Week, Orthodox Christians celebrate Christ’s crucifixion on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday. Holy Saturday is the day in between those two pivotal events. This is the sixth and final day of Holy week. Easter celebrations begin with the Easter Vigil service, which takes place after sundown on Holy Saturday.
Although most western Europeans know the day as Holy Saturday, many eastern Europeans call it Great Saturday. German speakers refer to it as Karsamstag, “Saturday of Mourning.” On the island of Malta it is known as Sibt il Glorja, “Saturday of Glory.” Christians from Iran and Iraq speak of Sabt al Noor, or the “Saturday of Light.” This last name refers to the ancient custom of celebrating the Easter Vigil, held late at night on Holy Saturday, with the lighting of countless lamps and candles.
Easter Vigil Mass
Easter Vigil Mass occurs on Holy Saturday which marks as the end of Lenten season. The Easter Vigil (also Paschal Vigil, Easter Vigil Mass or Mass of the Easter Vigil) is held after nightfall on Holy Saturday, it is the first Easter Mass to celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the most important feast in the church’s liturgical year.
The Easter Vigil Mass is the most important Mass in the Catholic Church. Catholics throughout the entire world will celebrate this most holiest of nights, in union with Jesus Christ and with all of their brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.
It is a time for Christians to reflect on Jesus’ journey to the Cross, beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and concluding wish his lonely trek from the Upper Room through Gethsemane and ultimately to Calvary and the empty tomb.
The History of Celebrating Holy Saturday
In the earliest days, there was no special celebration on Holy Saturday, except perhaps anticipation of the all-night Paschal Vigil. Eventually the focus on preparation for the Great Vigil became more emphasized.
According to a most ancient tradition, this night is “one of vigil for the Lord,” and the Vigil celebrated during it, to commemorate that holy night when the Lord rose from the dead, is regarded as the “mother of all holy vigils.” For in that night, the Church keeps vigil, waiting for the resurrection of the Lord, and celebrates the sacraments of Christian initiation.
Holy Saturday is a vigil. We keep watch for the expectant rising of Our Savior. This was the day He went down into the netherworld in order to bring back up with Him into heaven those who had died before His coming. Up to this time, the gates to heaven were closed and no one could go there because of the original sin of Adam. Jesus changed all that.
By paying the price for our sins on the Cross, He gained for us our eternal salvation, and heaven was openedonce more. Also on this night, persons who have spent months of preparation will be received through Baptism and Confirmation into the Catholic Church for the first time. It is a joyous occasion.
Holy Saturday Celebration
Holy Saturday is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. On this day, the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, and meditates on his passion and death, and descent to the dead. With prayer and fasting we await his glorious Easter resurrection. Mary is also a Holy Saturday symbol.
There is a tradition when candles are being lit during the Holy Saturday church service, for example, people in Greece celebrate by lighting fireworks. Though there are many parts of the Holy Saturday evening service, the most memorable is the part just before midnight. All the lights are extinguished in the church and the parishioners wait in silence. At midnight, the whole church is illuminated as the people chant “Christos Anesti!” or “Christ is Risen!” Then, the traditional “Christ is Risen” hymn is sung in celebration.
The Easter Vigil takes place at the end of the day because the new liturgical day begins at sunset, the vigil begins at sunset on Holy Saturday outside the church, where an Easter fire is kindled and the Paschal candle is blessed and then lit. This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, remaining in the sanctuary of the church and throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, reminding all that Christ is our life and light.
For many of us Saturday is a day of hunting for eggs with the children or simply another day to get ready for Easter Sunday breakfast, Easter services and time with family.