Holy Saturday has rightly been defined by some as "the longest day", a time of reflection that can expand into the life of each one. With no liturgies or the Eucharistic celebration, Christians wait in silence and relive the dismay of the apostles after the death of Jesus.
Even though the Easter Vigil begins on Saturday evening, it is part of the liturgy of the Resurrection. It is sometimes referred to as the "crisis" of the Word because the Gospels say nothing about it. We can only imagine this time as when the body of Jesus remains in the tomb, while the apostles, on the day of rest for the Jews, know nothing about what will come next.
The liturgical reform of Pope Pius XII has in some way "reinstated" Holy Saturday as the day of silence and expectation, in which every Christian, even today, meditates on the death of Jesus and on his own, preparing himself for the inevitable end of earthly life.
On this day, faith is tested because the Messiah is dead and we do not know what will happen. We can only live, hoping that the emptiness will be fulfilled.
The nether world
Even if everything seems to be silent, Christ is at work. In fact, according to ancient tradition, on this day, Jesus descended into the realm of the dead to save man and take him along with Him to heaven, where He precedes us and where He awaits us with open arms.
In the realm of the dead, Jesus meets Adam, the first man who here symbolizes the whole of humanity, shakes him out of his slumber and proclaims His salvation from which no one is excluded. In fact, Jesus creates a bridge between the tomb and the Kingdom of God. He carries the infallible weapon of the cross because with death he conquers death.
The Hour of the Mother
For about thirty years or so, Holy Saturday has also been celebrated as the Hour of the Mother in accordance with the Byzantine tradition. The focus is on the figure of Mary, in whom on Holy Saturday, we find both the pain of bereavement of her only beloved Son and the hope of His resurrection.
For this reason, Mary has been attributed titles, such as Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Dolours and the Sorrowful Mother or Mother of Sorrows, which have been key subjects for Marian art in the Catholic Church.
On Good Friday, we find her at the foot of the Cross bereft of her Son, who before breathing his last, entrusts her to John. Mary, called to fulfil her mission of Mother, cannot remain without her children. Here, Mary's pain and faith here are the pain and faith from which is born the whole Church, that is there with her at the foot of the Cross, to be enlightened by hope.
Since the Marian Year of 1987, the celebration of the Hour of the Mother has been taking place on Holy Saturday in the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major.