Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are, in a sense, one great Christian festival. On Holy Saturday, those who love Our Lord heave a sigh of relief that his sufferings are over and he is resting in the tomb, on the divinely-instituted day of rest — the Sabbath. As God the Creator rested on the first Saturday after creating the world, so God the Redeemer rested in the tomb on that Saturday after redeeming the world by his death on the cross. We say, in the Apostles Creed, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell — or, as a better translation has it, he descended to the dead — On the third day he rose again. What does it mean that “he descended into hell”? That is an English translation of the Latin term “ad inferos,” meaning “to the lower world.” The soul of Our Lord did not go to the hell of the condemned, but rather to those who died in God’s grace before Jesus did. They awaited there the moment of his salvation. All the holy patriarchs, prophets, and virtuous people who lived from the time of the original sin until that day when Jesus died on the cross — all were eagerly awaiting his redemption. Now, he goes to announce to them that their waiting is over and very soon they will be with him in heaven. So soon, in fact, that when he spoke to the good thief on the cross beside his own, he said, “THIS DAY, you will be with me in Paradise.”
Then the day of rest ended with the setting of the sun that Saturday night. Not only did the sun set upon one day, but upon the Old Testament; it rose to the New Testament of the resurrected Christ. Imagine the joy that Saint Joseph, who would have been among those who waited, experienced when Our Lord came to bring the good news. And then let us try to imagine the immense happiness that flooded the immaculate heart of Our Lady when the newly-risen Christ came to her on that first Easter morning. The first annunciation had caused her to be deeply disturbed, as Saint Luke’s gospel tells us. The archangel has to reassure her: “Mary, do not be afraid.” But this time, there is no disturbance, no need for reassurance. This ineffably beautiful son of hers whom she literally adores for he is God, is the most thrilling thing she has ever seen as he stands before her and, no doubt, embraces her in all the glory of his new life. She is transformed into one exultant cry: “Alleluia”!
Let us unite ourselves with the joy of the Mother of God as she, and we, celebrate the resurrection of Our Savior into the new life which he shares with us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.