All About Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday Definition and Summary
Holy Saturday is the final day of Holy Week, the final day of the traditional 40-day Lent Fast, and a part of the Paschal Triduum. This day commemorates Jesus lying in the tomb until His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Prayer: Holy Saturday Prayer
Basic Facts About Holy Saturday
Liturgical Color(s): Violet (Purple)
Type of Holiday: Part of the Paschal Triduum
Time of Year: Saturday of Holy Week
Duration: One day
Celebrates/Symbolizes: Waiting at the tomb of Jesus, meditating on His death
Alternate Names: Sabbatum Sanctum, Black Saturday
Scriptural References: Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42
Holy Saturday, Sabbatum Sanctum in Latin, is the last day of Holy Week, and the 40th day of the traditional Lenten fast (although Lent ends liturgically on the evening of Holy Thursday). The evening of Holy Saturday begins the third and final day of the Paschal Triduum.
In the Catholic Church, no Masses are celebrated on Holy Saturday; the day is a sparse time of reflection on Christ's death and burial in anticipation of the Vigil of Easter (Paschal Vigil). The vigil begins the night of Holy Saturday, lasting until Easter morning. Very little happens on Holy Saturday until the beginning of the Great Paschal Vigil.
There is deep symbolism for Christian reflection on Holy Saturday. On this day, the Church waits at the Lord's tomb, meditating on His passion, death, and descent to the dead. With prayer and fasting we await His glorious Easter resurrection. Mary is also a Holy Saturday symbol. According to Catholic tradition, Mary represents the entire body of the Church. As she awaited in faith for the victorious triumph of Her Son over death on the first Holy Saturday, so we too wait with Mary on the present Holy Saturday. This faithful and prayerful symbolic waiting has been called the Ora della Madre, or Hour of the Mother.
In the earliest days, there was no special celebration on Holy Saturday, except perhaps anticipation of the all-night Paschal Vigil. Eventually the focus on preparation for the Great Vigil became more emphasized.
Traditions and Symbols
Traditions Blessing of Easter foods, preparing for Easter, decorating Easter eggs, observing the Ora della Madre
Symbols Christ's tomb, Mary waiting by Christ's tomb
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Paschal Triduum? The Paschal Triduum, often called the Easter Triduum or simply the Triduum, consists of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. This includes the Great Easter Vigil, the high point of the Triduum. The word Triduum comes from the Latin word meaning "three days." It begins the evening of Maundy Thursday and ends at Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday. Thus the Triduum consists of three full days which begin and end in the evening. In the Catholic Church, the Triduum technically is not part of Lent (at least liturgically), but Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are still reckoned as part of the traditional 40-day Lenten fast. The Triduum celebrates the heart of our faith and salvation — the death and resurrection of Christ — and is thus the high point of the liturgical year. For more information, visit our Paschal Triduum page. Please note that many Protestant churches do not recognize the Triduum as a liturgical season distinct from Lent, so in many Protestant churches, Lent includes and ends on Holy Saturday.
2. Why does the Church celebrate Jesus' time in the tomb on a Saturday?
This page written by David Bennett.