Adapted from Josephine Lombardi, Living with the Liturgical Year (available on Shop page)
April 8, 2023
Holy Saturday: Light that Overcomes Darkness
The early Church celebrated the night before Easter by illuminating the churches and even entire cities. Liturgies started around three in the afternoon and ended with the Mass of the Resurrection on Easter morning. At the Easter Vigil we celebrate this ancient rite. On this day, we reflect on the time Christ remained in the tomb, his descent to the realm of the dead, and his resurrection. The Easter Vigil fills us with hope and expectation as it inspires us to stop and reflect on the great gift of the paschal mystery. We die and rise with Christ in the past, present, and future as we wait at the empty tomb with wonder and awe. We are reminded that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Holy Saturday is a good time to reflect on how well we wait on the Lord. Holy Saturday challenges us to be like Martha’s sister, Mary, who chose the better part (Luke 10:42). Waiting for prayers to be answered, and for lives and relationships to be restored, requires trust and rest in the Lord. Jesus waited for the resurrection. God’s timing is the best timing. Are we mindful of those times we are called to be still and wait?
Easter Sunday is the feast of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities. It is, writes, St. Athanasius, the Great Sunday. Easter Season begins on Easter Sunday and ends with Evening Prayer on the Solemnity of Pentecost. The Church teaches that “the fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful emulation as on a feast day, or better as on ‘Great Sunday.'” (General Norms for the Liturgical Year, #22). Through his death, Jesus conquers the power of sin over our lives, reminding us that with his grace we will not be overcome. Through his resurrection, Jesus conquers the power of death, reminding us love and life endure forever.
How is the Date of Easter Set?
Church rules govern setting the date of Easter. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. (The vernal equinox is fixed as March 21). Easter can fall as early as March 22 and as late as April 25. That is why the date of Ash Wednesday and Pentecost move as well.
Easter is the reason for the liturgical season and for the spiritual journey. It is the season of restoration, healing, and reconciliation. Easter is a reminder that
-the resurrection of Jesus really happened,
-we, too, will be resurrected and received a glorified body
-death, darkness and sin have been conquered once and for all,
-we can be made new, despite our pain and loss,
-brokenness is healed,
-creation is restored, and
-eternal life with God is possible.
Our baptism reminds us of this mystery. We die and rise with Christ, signalling a new life in Christ. The darkness has been overcome by the light of Christ. Moreover, St. Paul reminds us that the same power that brought about the resurrection will make us a new creation (Ephesians 1: 18-23). Do you believe this?