~Today is Holy Saturday. The following entry is a rebuilt post for this day which was originally published in 2019.
“Saint Paul tells us that our religion is vain unless we have faith in the mystery of our Saviour’s Resurrection — where was this faith on the day after our Lord’s death? In one heart only, and that was Mary’s. As it was her chaste womb that had held within it Him whom heaven and earth cannot contain, so on this day, by her firm and unwavering faith, she resumes within her single self the whole Church.” ~Dom Prosper Gueranger (b. 1805- d. 1875), The Liturgical Year
Holy Saturday is a quiet day in the Roman Catholic Church; and, in this silence, the followers of Christ keep company with the Blessed Virgin Mary awaiting the Resurrection. The Blessed Virgin Mary displayed her unwavering faith (Dom Prosper, above) on this day: she did not lose heart, but was steadfast and ever true to God. She was, and is, the Ivory Tower. The first Holy Saturday marks the beginning of the Catholic tradition of honoring Our Lady every Saturday throughout the year.
The following excerpt from an ancient homily details the remarkable silence which characterizes this day:
Something strange is happening — there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. (source)
As noted above, Holy Saturday marks the beginning of the Roman Catholic tradition of honoring Our Lady each Saturday. The French abbot Dom Prosper Gueranger (b. 1805- d. 1875) writes of how this tradition began in his Holy Saturday entry in The Liturgical Year:
And now let us visit the Holy Mother who has passed the night in Jerusalem going over, in saddest memory the scenes she has witnessed. Her Jesus has been a Victim to every possible insult and cruelty: He has been crucified. His Precious Blood has flowed in torrents from those Five Wounds. He is dead and now lies buried in yonder tomb as though he were but a mere man, yea the most abject of men. How many tears have fallen during these long hours from the eyes of the Daughter of David, and yet her Son has not come back to her! Near her is Magdalene, heart-broken by yesterday’s events, she has no words to tell her grief, for Jesus is gone, and as she thinks forever. The other women, less loved by Jesus than Magdalene, yet most dear to Him, stand around the disconsolate Mother. They have braved every insult and danger in order to remain on Calvary till all was over, and they intend returning there with Magdalene, as soon as the Sabbath is over, to honour the tomb and the body of Jesus.
John, the adopted son of Mary, and the Beloved Disciple of Jesus, is oppressed with sorrow. Others, also, of the Apostles and disciples visit the house of mourning. Peter, penitent and humble, fears not to appear before the Mother of Mercy. Among the disciples are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. We may easily imagine the conversation — it is on the sufferings and death of Jesus, and on the ingratitude of the Jews. The Church, in the Seventh Responsory of today’s Tenebrae represents these men as saying: “Behold! how the Just One dies, and there is none that takes it to heart. Iniquity has had its way. He was silent as a Lamb under his shearer, and he opened not his mouth. He was taken away from distress and judgment: but his memory will be in peace.”
Thus speak the men. The women are thinking of their morrow’s visit to the sepulchre. The saintliness of Jesus, His goodness, His power, His sufferings, His death — everything is remembered, except His Resurrection which they had often heard Him say should certainly and speedily take place. Mary alone lives in expectation of His triumph. In her was verified that expression of the Holy Ghost, where, speaking of the Valiant Woman, He says: “Her lamp will not be put out in the night” (Proverbs xxxi. 18) Her courage fails not because she knows that the sepulchre must yield up its Dead, and her Jesus will rise again to life. Saint Paul tells us that our religion is vain unless we have faith in the mystery of our Saviour’s Resurrection — where was this faith on the day after our Lord’s death? In one heart only, and that was Mary’s. As it was her chaste womb that had held within it Him whom heaven and earth cannot contain, so on this day, by her firm and unwavering faith, she resumes within her single self the whole Church. How sacred is this Saturday, which, notwithstanding all its sadness, is such a day of glory to the Mother of Jesus! It is on this account that the Church has consecrated to Mary the Saturday of every week.
Yes, as Dom Prosper says, “How sacred is this Saturday, which, notwithstanding all its sadness, is such a day of glory to the Mother of Jesus!”
Today, may we keep company with Our Lady as we await the Resurrection, remembering and honoring her whose lamp was, and is, always lit.
~Homily from Fr. Peter Fehlner (b. 1931- d. 2018), see here.