Bishop Robert J. Brennan of the Diocese of Columbus in Ohio says although Holy Saturday is not an obligatory fasting day, many Catholics may choose to fast and abstain from meat anyway as a final spiritual preparation before Easter. “If possible the fast and abstinence of Good Friday should continue through Holy Saturday to the Easter Vigil. Good Friday is the day that is obligatory but many people continue through Holy Saturday.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Catholics Remember Jesus’ Entombment on Holy Saturday Following His Crucifixion
Jesus was arrested, suffered and was crucified on Good Friday. The Gospel of Matthew explains that after Jesus died, a wealthy disciple asked the Romans for permission to take Jesus’ body for a proper burial:
Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.
The Gospel of John also refers to the Jewish Day of Preparation. Jesus’ followers could not finish the burial preparations because the Sabbath was beginning, and no work was done on the Sabbath.
Holy Saturday Is the Only Day the Catholic Church Does Not Celebrate Holy Communion
On Holy Saturday, Catholics remember Jesus lying in the tomb. As Catholic Online explains, Catholics are instructed to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity’s sins and to prepare for his resurrection.
This waiting period coincides with a pause of the Mass. Priests also do not give out communion.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis states on its website, “Holy Saturday, the deepest fast of all, when not only is there no Mass, it is the only day that the Church foregoes reception of the Eucharist.”
The Easter Vigil Begins After Sunset on Holy Saturday
Many Catholics do traditionally head to a mass while the calendar still says Saturday. But it’s not a Holy Saturday mass; it’s the Easter Vigil. The Easter Vigil mass begins after sunset on Holy Saturday. Some congregations celebrate the mass at midnight, although many others schedule masses for earlier in the evening.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains the significance of the Vigil on its website: “On this holy night, the Church keeps watch, celebrating the resurrection of Christ in the sacraments and awaiting his return in glory. It is the turning point of the Triduum, the Passover of the new covenant, which marks Christ’s passage from death to life.”
Pope Francis is celebrating the Easter Vigil beginning at 7:30 p.m. local time at Saint Peter’s Basilica,according to the Vatican. That corresponds with 1:30 p.m. EST and 10:30 p.m. Pacific. You can stream the pope’s Easter Vigil mass here.