Holy Saturday

The day before Easter is Holy Saturday, also known as the Harrowing of Hell. This is the third day of the the sacred Paschal Triduum.

For Jesus’ disciples, this would have been the Jewish Sabbath so they rested.

While Jesus’ body lay in the tomb, his soul descended to Sheol, the Land of the Dead, to free those souls who were worthy of Heaven.

The day is marked by silence and gravity as Catholics meditate on Jesus’ descent into hell, praying and fasting while anticipating his Resurrection.

Another Catholic practice is to reflect on the Virgin Mary’s pain and suffering during this time. Because of this, she has earned titles such as Mother of Sorrows and Our Lady of Dolours. 

There is no Mass during the day on Holy Thursday but the Easter Vigil is celebrated after sundown. This special Mass includes a service of light and Easter Proclamation, readings from salvation history, Baptism and Confirmation of new Catholics, and the celebration of the Eucharist.

The day before the Resurrection:


Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid Him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 23: 50-56

The great silence:

Fr. William Nicholas

Between the horror and the glory:

Loyola Press

Christ’s stay in the tomb constitutes the real link between his passible state before Easter and his glorious and risen state today. The same person of the “Living One” can say, “I died, and behold I am alive for evermore”: God [the Son] did not impede death from separating his soul from his body according to the necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the Resurrection, so that He himself might be, in his person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in Himself the decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the separated parts.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 625

Jesus attracted his prey:

Prodigal Catholic

Jesus experienced death like all men:

Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA

The King sleeps, still at work:

Redeemed Online

Deep silence is a feature of Holy Saturday. In fact, no special liturgies are proposed for this day of expectation and prayer. Everything in the Church is still while the faithful, in imitation of Mary, prepare for the great event of the Resurrection. The solemn Easter Vigil, “mother of all vigils”, begins at nightfall on Holy Saturday. After blessing the new fire, the celebrant lights the paschal candle which symbolizes Christ who brings light to every person, and the great proclamation of the Exsultet rings out joyfully. The ecclesial community, listening to the Word of God, meditates upon the important promise of definitive liberation from the slavery of sin and death. This is followed by the rites of Baptism and Confirmation for the catechumens who have undergone a long process of preparation. The proclamation of the Resurrection scatters the darkness of the night and the whole of created reality awakens from the slumber of death to recognize Christ’s lordship, as the Pauline hymn that has inspired our reflections brings to the fore: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”.

Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 7 April 2004

Celebrating the Easter Vigil and welcoming new Catholics:


The Easter Vigil is the mother of all vigils:

Catholic Breakfast

Celebrating the Resurrection where it happened:

Christian Media Center – English

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Entering the fullness of Christ’s Church:

The Coming Home Network International

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