Holy Saturday

Written by Marisa Hazakis

On Holy Saturday, the church commemorates the burial of Christ and His descent into Hades.

The day in between His Crucifixion and Resurrection, Holy Saturday is also called the Great Sabbath, since it is the day that Christ “rested” in His tomb. The Matins service of Holy Saturday is observed in the evening of Good Friday and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil takes place the following morning.

The Matins of Lamentation (observed on the evening of Good Friday)

The sombre evening service on Good Friday takes the form of a funeral service for Christ, with the Epitaphios in the centre of the church, symbolising Christ’s burial in the tomb. Mirofores (young girls dressed in white) stand at the Epitaphios symbolising the women with myrrh who came to the tomb of Christ early in the morning to find it empty. During the service, the congregation joins the choir in grieving the death of Christ, by singing one of the most famous Orthodox hymns, the Lamentations. The Lamentations are presented in three stanzas and at the third stanza when the verse “early in the morning the myrrh-bearers came to Thee and sprinkled myrrh upon Thy tomb” is sung, the priest sprinkles the Epitaphios and the congregation with rosewater.

Mirofores standing by the Epitaphios. Source: riverdalepress.com

You can listen to the Lamentations here.

After the Doxology, while chanting the Trisagion, the Epitaphios is carried in procession around the church while the faithful follow with lit candles. After the procession, candles are extinguished to symbolise Christ’s death and parishioners file underneath the Epitaphios, raised at the entrance of the church, to receive God’s blessing. At the end of the service, the faithful venerate the Epitaphio and receive a holy flower and wish each other, “Kali Anastasi

Procession of the Epitaphios. Source: greeknewsagenda.gr

Watch the procession of the Epitaphios here

The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great (observed on Saturday morning)

The Divine Liturgy of the following morning, sometimes called the First Resurrection Service, commemorates Jesus’ descent into Hades, where He preached His messaged to the dead. Those who believed Him were raised into Paradise and received eternal life and salvation. The heavy sorrow of Good Friday begins to lift when the priest, wearing a bright robe, chants, “Arise, O God, to the world,” while sprinkling bay leaves and flower petals all over the church, symbolising the shattered gates and broken chains of hell, to celebrate the triumph over death.

Priest scattering rose petals. Source: ancientfaithministries.com

Kali Anastasi!