Holy Saturday


Today we pause. Between the remembrance of the cross on Good Friday and the joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday is a day of silence. The Gospels have nothing to say about the events of this day. Jesus' body simply lay in the tomb. On this day, the God-Man was dead. 

Johann von Rist's great hymn captures something of the reality of Holy Saturday:

O darkest woe!
Ye tears, forth flow!
Has earth so sad a wonder,
That the Father's only Son
Now is buried yonder!

2 O sorrow dread!
Our God is dead,
He paid our great redemption.
Jesus' death upon the cross
Gained for us salvation.

3 O sinful man!
It was the ban
Of death on thee that brought Him
Down to suffer for thy sins
And such woe hath wrought Him.

4 O Ground of faith,
Laid low in death!
Sweet lips. now silent sleeping:
Surely all that live must mourn
Here with bitter weeping.

5 O blest shall be
Who oft in faith will ponder
Why the glorious Prince of Life
Should be buried yonder.

6 O Jesus blest,
My Help and Rest,
With tears I now entreat Thee:
Make me love Thee to the last,
Till in heav'n I greet Thee!

Britain's earliest Pentecostals have also left us with some rich prayers for Holy Saturday that can still help us today to meditate on the message of this day. Here are some of them:

O ALMIGHTY GOD, who by the descent of our Saviour Jesus Christ into hell, and His rising again from the dead, hast given assurance that the spirits of those who sleep in Him do abide in joy and felicity ; Grant unto us, we beseech Thee, such steadfast faith and lively hope, that we may purify ourselves as He is pure; and that we, with Thy whole redeemed Church, may speedily attain unto the resurrection from the dead, when our mortal bodies shall put on immortality and incorruption, and we shall be changed into the likeness of His glorious body, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O BLESSED Lord Jesu Christ, who for the work of our salvation didst condescend to die for us, and also to be buried; We beseech Thee that Thou wilt never forsake Thy mystical Body the Church ; but wilt so continually vouchsafe Thy presence unto Thy people, and visit them with the consolations of the Holy Ghost in the midst of the darkness of this world, that they may be kept in patient waiting for the glory of the resurrection, when Thou shalt appear again without sin unto salvation. Amen.

GRANT, O Lord, we beseech Thee, that as Thy Son Jesus Christ, after He had suffered in the flesh for our sins, did preach unto the spirits in prison ; so also Thy Church may ever be ready in body and spirit, that by the preaching of Thy gospel all who shall be obedient unto the faith may be gathered unto Thy holy Name : through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

THOU wast present as on this day, O Christ, with Thy body in the tomb ; with Thy soul Thou wast in Hades, fulfilling to the thief Thy promise that he should be with Thee in Paradise ; and on the throne Thou wast abiding with the Father and the Holy Ghost, filling all things, and uncircumscribed of any. Glory be to Thee, O Christ.

And finally, from the preface of their prayer of consecration at the Breaking of Bread on Holy Saturday:

We bless Thee for Thy mighty power of old, when by Thy rebuke Thou didst dry up the Red Sea before Thy people Israel, giving unto them deliverance, and bringing upon their enemies utter destruction. We praise Thee for Thy mercy, the glory whereof shineth even from the tomb of Christ our Saviour: for Thou didst not leave His soul in hell, neither didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. In death He was victorious, and spoiled the principalities and powers of darkness, making a show of them openly. By the Spirit He descended into hell. He hath led captivity captive, and hath delivered the souls of His redeemed, that they should not be holden for ever of the pains of death.