After the commemoration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, the church is covered with silence. The Eucharistic host is put back in a tabernacle and it remains there until the Easter Vigil on Saturday night.
In some churches a custom was adopted where a tomb was created to place a statue of the dead corpse of Jesus and the lay faithful were then encouraged to stay in prayer before the sorrowful tomb.
For many centuries ago, there was even a strict fast on Holy Saturday, which permits no food to be eaten in observance of this painful day. Many would even stay in the church throughout the night of Good Friday, keeping Jesus company in the tomb.
A homily from the 2nd century affirms this general atmosphere in the church. On this night, there is a big silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King is sleeping; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has shaken.”
One of the main reasons for this “great silence” is to enter into the pain of the death of Jesus and to feel the loss the apostles must have felt. Try to think about it for a minute.
As Jesus taught the apostles continually about his resurrection, and likely, the apostles had some doubts, seeing the death of their master.
They might have thought to themselves, “If truly, he is the Messiah, why did he die? I thought he said he would rise from the dead?” As a result of this, Holy Saturday is that day of doubt and sorrow, not knowing what to do or what to believe.
Even the Easter Vigil starts in silence, where the Church is in complete darkness.
Though, the good news is that Jesus, who is the light of the world, has truly risen and he dispels the darkness and any doubts we may have had.
In that case, the church glows in pure joy at the Easter Vigil and music, bells and light lift up our hearts to God.
It is only after experiencing the silence of Holy Saturday that we can truly appreciate the loud and joyful celebrations of the Easter Vigil.