Jesus was/is famous for doing stuff on the Sabbath Day. His way of resting and delighting in the Father was to heal, restore, and forgive. In other words, to conquer death and sin and offer new life. The Sabbath was not a “day off” from the restful labor of salvation’s joyful work. Jesus is Savior eight days out of the week. It was an offense to many. On Holy Saturday we know He continues to do so. Praise God for the power of Christ Jesus’ Sabbath Rest. Into it we enter by death. In it we live by resurrection. Here are a couple of reflections from the Holy Tradition that confirm the mystery of this Holy Sabbath Day — Holy Saturday. The fruit of His laborious rest on the 7th day is the creation of the 8th day — the first day of the new creation.
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.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity. Source: “Universalis”
O Lord my God, I will sing to you a funeral hymn, a song at your burial: for by your burial you have opened for me the gates of life, and by your death you have slain death and hell. All things above and all beneath the earth quaked with fear at your death, as they beheld you, my Saviour, upon your throne on high and in the tomb below. For you lie before our eyes in a way beyond our understanding: a corpse and yet the very source of life.
Today you keep holy the seventh day, which you blessed of old by resting from your works. You bring all things into being and make all things new, observing the sabbath rest, my Saviour, and restoring your strength. You have gained the victory by your greater strength: your soul was parted from your body yet by your power, O Word, you have burst asunder the bonds of death and hell. Hell was filled with bitterness when it met you, O Word, for it saw a man deified, marked by wounds yet all-powerful; and it shrank back in terror at this sight.
You were torn but not separated, O Word, from the flesh you had taken. For though your temple was destroyed at the time of your Passion, the person of your Godhead and of your flesh is one: in both you are one Son, the Word of God, both God and man. The fall of Adam brought death to man but not to God. Hell is king over mortal men, but not for ever. Laid in the tomb, mighty Lord, with your mighty hand you burst asunder the bars of death. To those from every age who slept in the tombs, you have proclaimed true deliverance, O Saviour, who have become the firstborn from the dead.
Be astounded, O heavens, and let the foundations of the earth be shaken. He who dwells on high is numbered among the dead and dwells as a stranger in a narrow tomb. The second Adam, he who dwells on high, has come down to the first Adam in the depths of hell. The disciples’ courage failed, but Joseph of Arimathea was more bold; for seeing the God of all a naked corpse, he asked for the body and buried him.
Coming forth from a birth without travail and wounded in your side with a spear, O My Maker, you have brought to pass the re-creation of Eve. Becoming Adam, you have in a way surpassing nature slept a life-giving sleep, awakening life from sleep and from corruption by your almighty power.
‘Do not weep for me O Mother, beholding in the tomb the Son whom you conceived in your womb without seed. For I shall rise and be glorified, and as God I shall exalt in everlasting glory those who magnify you with faith and love.’
‘O Son without beginning, I was blessed by your strange birth in ways surpassing nature, for I was spared all travail. But now looking upon you, my God, as a lifeless corpse, I am pierced by the sword of bitter sorrow. But arise, that I may be truly magnified.’ From Matins of Holy Saturday in The Lenten Triodion (1978) Source: Two Year Lectionary, Patristic Vigil Readings, Lent, Year 2