The Following Expalnation of the Service is written by Rev.
Alkiviadis Calivas, and can be found in his book entitled, "Great Week
and Pascha in the Greek Orthodox Church."
On Good Friday evening the Orthodox Church celebrates the Orthros Service for Holy and Great Saturday.
On Great Saturday the Church contemplates the mystery of
the Lord’s descent into Hades, the place of the dead. Death, our
ultimate enemy, is defeated from within. “He (Christ) gave Himself as a
ransom to death in which we were held captive, sold under sin.
Descending into Hades through the Cross . . . He loosed the bonds of
death” (Liturgy of Saint Basil). The hymnographer of the Church
describes the mystery with these words:
- Come, let us see our Life lying in the tomb, that He may
give life to those that in their tombs lie dead. Come, let us look
today on the Son of Judah as He sleeps, and with the prophet let us cry
aloud to Him: Thou hast lain down, Thou hast slept as a lion; who shall
awaken Thee, O King? But of Thine own free will do Thou rise up, who
willingly dost give Thyself for us. O Lord, glory to Thee.
- Today a tomb holds Him who holds the creation in the
hollow of His hand; a stone covers Him who covered the heavens with
glory. Life sleeps and hell trembles, and Adam is set free from his
bonds. Glory to Thy dispensation, whereby Thou hast accomplished all
things, granting us an eternal Sabbath, Thy most holy Resurrection from
- (Hymns of the Ainoi)
On Great Saturday our focus is on the Tomb of Christ. This
is no ordinary grave. It is not a place of corruption, decay and
defeat. It is life-giving a source of power, victory and liberation.
- O happy tomb! It received within itself the Creator, as
one asleep, and it was made a divine treasury of life, for our salvation
who sing: O God our Deliverer, blessed art Thou.
- The Life of all submits to be laid in the tomb,
according to the law of the dead, and He makes it a source of awakening,
for our salvation who sing: O God our Deliverer, blessed art Thou.
- (Hymns of the 7th Ode)
Great Saturday is the day between Jesus’ death and His
resurrection. It is the day of watchful expectation, in which mourning
is being transformed into joy. The day embodies in the fullest possible
sense a joyful-sadness, which has dominated the celebrations of Great
Week. The hymnographer of the Church has penetrated the profound
mystery, and helps us to understand it through the following poetic
dialogue that he has devised between Jesus and His Mother:
- Weep not for me, O Mother, beholding in the sepulcher the
Son whom thou hast conceived without seed in thy womb. For I shall
rise and shall be glorified, and as God I shall exalt in everlasting
glory those who magnify thee with faith and love.
- "O Son without beginning, in ways surpassing nature
was I blessed at Thy strange birth, for I was spared all travail. But
now beholding Thee, my God, a lifeless corpse, I am pierced by the sword
of bitter sorrow. But arise, that I may be magnified."
- "By mine own will the earth covers me, O Mother, but
the gatekeepers of hell tremble as they see me, clothed in the
blood-stained garment of vengeance: for on the Cross as God have I
struck down mine enemies, and I shall rise again and magnify thee."
- "Let creation rejoice exceedingly, let all those
born on earth be glad: for hell, the enemy, has been despoiled. Ye
women, come to meet with sweet spices: for I am delivering Adam and Eve
with all their offspring, and on the third day I shall rise again."
- (9th Ode of the Canon)
Great Saturday is the day of the pre-eminent rest. Christ
observes a Sabbath rest in the tomb. His rest, however, is not
inactivity but the fulfillment of the divine will and plan for the
salvation of humankind and the cosmos. He who brought all things into
being, makes all things new. The recreation of the world has been
accomplished once and for all. Through His incarnation, life and death
Christ has filled all things with Himself. He has opened a path for all
flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible that
the author of life would be dominated by corruption.
- Moses the great mystically prefigured this present day,
saying: "And God blessed the seventh day." For this is the blessed
Sabbath, this is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God
rested from all His works. Suffering death in accordance with the plan
of salvation, He kept the Sabbath in the flesh; and returning once again
to what He was, through His Resurrection He has granted us eternal
life, for He alone is good and loves mankind.
- (Hymn of the Ainoi)
The Encomia or Praises are short poetic verses lamenting
the passion, death and burial of Christ. They are also chanted on Holy