The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil

Saturday is the seventh day of the week, the day Jesus rested in the tomb. In the first three synoptic Gospel accounts this was the Jewish Sabbath which provided appropriate symbolism of the seventh day of rest. Holy Saturday is also a day of solemn vigil, meditation and prayer.

Jesus was crucified on Friday, the Jewish "Preparation Day" (the day before the Sabbath). Because the next day was the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus petitioned Pilate for Jesus' body to be removed from the cross. They placed Jesus' body in the tomb and wrapped it in linen and spices in accordance with Jewish burial customs. This also provided appropriate symbolism of the seventh day of rest. 

The next day, Holy Saturday, the chief priest and the Pharisees went to Pilate. They recalled that while Jesus was still alive he had said "After three days I will rise again." Pilate gave the order that the tomb be sealed and guards posted until the third day so Jesus' disciples could not come and steal the body away and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead.

Holy Saturday is then, chiefly a day of solemn vigil (watch), prayer and meditation. The major activity of the day comes at nightfall as observance of the Resurrection approaches.

While Good Friday is a traditional day of fasting, some also fast on Holy Saturday as the climax of the season of Lent. In the early Church, this was the only Saturday on which fasting was permitted of special severity. Dating from the time of St. Irenaeus, an absolute fast from every kind of food was observed for the forty hours preceding the feast of Easter. Although the moment assigned for breaking the fast at dawn on Sunday varied according to time and country, the abstinence from food on Holy Saturday was mandated.

This ancient tradition dating to the first centuries of the church calls for no food of any kind to be eaten on Holy Saturday, or for 40 hours before sunrise on Sunday. It is also observed that Holy Saturday has traditionally been a time of reflection and waiting, the time of weeping that lasts for the night while awaiting the joy that comes in the morning (Psa 30:5).

Some traditions suspend services and Scripture readings during the day on Holy Saturday, to be resumed at the Easter Vigil after sundown Saturday evening. Some church traditions continue daily services on Saturday, but there is no communion served on this day. It is traditionally a day of fasting and quiet meditation as we contemplate the darkness of a world without a future and without hope apart from God and his grace.

Prior to the fourth century, only Easter was recognized as a holy day. As part of the Constantine reformation, all days of the week prior to Easter were established as holy days. Today it is primarily observed by the Roman Catholic church. In the ceremony, a Paschal candle is lit along with five incenses. The five incenses represent the five wounds and burial spices with which His body was anointed.

Some Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches hold vigil services that often include the baptism of new members. The vigil service leads up to a dramatic moment. The lights of the church are put out, leaving everyone in darkness. Then, the priest lights one tall candle, representing the risen Jesus. The flame from this candle is used to light other candles held by worshipers, which symbolizes the spreading of Jesus' light throughout the world.

In Eastern Orthodox Churches, the ceremony is timed so that the priest lights his candle exactly at midnight. After all the candles have been lit, the service becomes an Easter celebration, with joyous music and the reading of the Easter story from the Bible.

In the primitive Church, Holy Saturday was known as Great or Grand Saturday, Holy Saturday, the Angelic Night, and the Vigil of Easter. It is no longer, like Maundy Thursday, a day of joy, but one of joy and sadness intermingled; it is the close of the season of Lent and penance, and the beginning of paschal time, which is one of rejoicing.

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Burial Of Jesus

Lection 83; The Gospel of the Holy Twelve

    1. NOW, when the even was come, Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable councillor, who also waited for the Kingdom of God, came and went in boldly unto Pilate and craved the body of Jesus. (He was a good man and just, and had not consented to the council and deed of them).
    2. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead, and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
    3. And there came also Nicodemus, who at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred weight. Then took they the body of Jesus and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
    4. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore, and it was about the beginning of the second watch when they buried him, because of the Jews’ preparation day, for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
    5. And Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. There at the tomb they kept watch for three days and three nights.
    6. And the women also, who came with him from Galilee, followed after, bearing lamps in their hands and beheld the sepulchre and how his body was laid, and they made lamentation over him.
    7. And they returned and rested the next clay, being a high day, and on the day following they bought and prepared spices and ointments and waited for the end of the Sabbath.
    8. Now the next day that followed, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir we remember that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
    9. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day be past, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead, so the last error shall be worse than the first.
    10. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch, go your way, make it as sure as you can. So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch till the third day should be past.

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