Synaxarion for Holy and Great Saturday.
On this day, Holy and Great Saturday, we celebrate the burial of the divine Body of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and His descent into Hades, through which mankind was recalled from corruption to be lifted up again to life eternal.
Of all the days of the year, the fasting seasons are the most revered; and again, of the fasting seasons, the most distinguished is Holy and Great Lent; and again, the most eminent and the most exalted of all the weeks in Great Lent is Holy Week; and again, of all the days of Holy Week, the most exalted and most divine is that of Holy and Great Saturday. It is called Great Week and Great Saturday not because these days and hours are by chance more exalted, but because the great, extraordinary, portentous, and wonderful deeds of our Savior were accomplished during this week, and for this reason it is called great.
After our Lord had endured His life-bearing sufferings for our salvation during this week, He neither accomplished nor suffered anything more on the earth today, only lying bodily in the Tomb. From Friday evening, His All-holy Soul had gone down to Hades in order to raise the Forefathers from there with Himself. Yet, as in the beginning, God made all creation in six days, and on the last day — that is, the sixth — He made the final and entirely perfect creature, Man, and consequently rested on the seventh day from all His works, thus sanctifying this day, naming it the Sabbath, which means rest; thus, He sanctified the workmanship of the intelligible world, “refashioning” the corrupted man on the sixth day, and renewing him through His life-bearing Cross and voluntary Death. On this seventh day, He rested the “complete rest” from His works, sleeping a sleep (that is, death) that is life-producing and salvific for our nature.
Therefore, the Word of God went down with the flesh into the Tomb, and He also went down into Hades with His immaculate and divine Soul, which was separated from the Body after death. He gave over such a Soul into the hands of the Father, saying in a loud voice, according to the Evangelist Luke, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). To such a Father, who is without beginning, He freely offered His very own Blood in order to ransom us who were condemned. The Soul of the Lord was not conquered in Hades, as were the souls of the other holy ones, inasmuch as He never had any participation in the curse of the Forefathers of our race. His Divinity was thoroughly united with the Soul and with the Body both on the Holy Cross, where He endured all the suffering of mankind, and in the Tomb. On the one hand, the Lord’s Body suffered “destruction,” in that there was a separation of the Soul from the Body. Yet on the other hand, in no way did He suffer corruption, that is, the dissolution of the flesh and the destruction of the limbs.
And, as we said yesterday, Joseph buried the divine Body of the Lord, and today the Jews proposed to Pilate and said to him, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' (The first day was from the time of His death at the ninth hour on Friday till sunset, since the Jews reckoned each new day to begin at sunset. The second day, the Blessed Sabbath, was the time from sunset on Friday till sunset on Saturday, and the third day was fron sunset on Saturday till He arose on early Sunday morning, the “eternal eighth day”). Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first” (Matt. 27:63-64). Thus, permission was given to them by Pilate, and so it was accomplished. But, О wicked slanderers, if Christ were a deceiver, what do you fear from the words of a deceiver, since you put Him to death when He was living? Therefore, surely He died, and this ought to be confessed. Be attentive, О Christians, and understand that the results of the many deeds those ungrateful men performed were contrary to their expected outcome. For those same guards whom they placed to guard the Tomb later became witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ.
Hades, from now on, is twisted and becomes dizzy, perceiving that it endures being assailed by a most strong and invincible power. Therefore, through the unjust swallowing of Christ, the most solid Cornerstone, Hades is about to cast forth from its all-devouring belly all those who from the beginning of time it has gorged upon and swallowed.
Through Your ineffable condescension,
О Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.
The Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarion, ed. Fr David (Kidd) and Mother Gabriella (Ursache), Rives Junction, MI: HDM, 1999, pp. 157-160.