Curiously, why is Holy Saturday called “Black” Saturday?
The answer is simple. As black symbolizes death and mourning, it was on Holy Saturday – after Good Friday’s crucifixion – that Jesus’ disciples mourned his death and, since it was a sabbath day, they rested. The gospel of Luke notes that
“the women returned home and prepared spices and ointments; on the sabbath day they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).
At the tomb (of Jesus), the guards that had been stationed there kept watch over the place to make sure that the disciples did not steal Jesus’ body.
But, had Jesus, as articulated by the Apostles Creed, really “descended into hell” on the first Holy Saturday?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #633 teaches thus:
“Scriptures calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, ‘hell’ – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God (Phil. 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev. 1:18; Eph. 4:9). Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into ‘Abraham’s bosom’: ‘It is precisely these holy souls who awaited their savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell’. Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.”
The blackness of the first Holy Saturday hence points out to Jesus’ death and God’s seeming “silence”. God was “silent” on Black Saturday! The cadaver of Christ was as mute as the stone which guards it.
If Holy Saturday’s blackness or silence somehow torments us, it is best to reckon that we just have to do what Jesus did. Lie still. Stay silent, and trust God. Jesus knew God would not leave him alone in the grave. God will not leave us alone in our struggles – especially in our protracted battle against COVID-19. God’s silence is not necessarily His absence. His seeming inactivity, particularly during the “Black Saturdays” of our life, is never His apathy.
This is so because on the first Holy Saturday, the empty tomb – not the empty cross – verily points to the reality of Jesus’ glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday!
But whilst, with our Easter celebration once again, not a few fence-sitter Catholics are yet wont to dish out a captious cynicism: what’s “new” then? And by Easter Monday, we’re “normally” back to the same old problems!
I beg to disagree, however. Yes, every Easter Sunday there’s always something “new” that happens – which profoundly occurs during the Easter Vigil rites. During this sacred rites, we RENEW our baptismal vows and once again swear – supposedly in solemn sincerity – to “shun Satan or sinfulness and re-embrace a dynamic faith in the Holy Trinity, the Church, and eternal life”.
In a sense, therefore, Easter is supposedly a REBIRTH, a RE-BAPTISM, or a NEW LIFE of profoundly meaningful relationship with God, with others (family especially), and with the world.
Bless ye, holiness is not an “out-of-this-world” adventure but supposedly an everyday life experience – and this is being re-animated or renewed on Easter celebration.
The famed Sainthood-candidate Archbishop Fulton Sheen has this to say:
“Sanctity is not giving up the world. It is exchanging the world. It is a continuation of that sublime transaction of the Incarnation in which Christ said to man: ‘You give me your humanity, I will give you my divinity. You give me your time, I will give you my eternity. You give me your slavery, I will give you my freedom. You give me your death, I will give you my life. You give me your nothingness, I will give you my all.’ And the consoling thought throughout this whole transforming process is that it does not require much time to make us saints; it requires only much love.”
Happy and blessed Easter to one and all!