“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
Holy Saturday - Sabbatum Sanctum, is the Saturday of Holy Week, the day before Easter Sunday. Depending on the country, the name slightly changes - in Portugal and Brazil the day is known as Hallelujah Saturday and in the Philippines it is known as Glorious Saturday. Among Coptic Christians the Saturday is known as the Saturday of Light or Joyous Saturday. The day commemorates two events - the Harrowing of Hell and the body of Jesus Christ laying in the tomb.
In the Catholic church, the Blessed Virgin is referred to as Our Lady of Solitude, bringing to mind the great solace and grief she would be experiencing on this day. The altar of the church remains bare after having been stripped on the Mass on Maundy Thursday and Sacraments are extremely limited - only Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and emergency Baptisms are given. Holy Communion is still given only to the dying as Viaticum.
Holy Saturday lasts until nightfall when the Easter Vigil beings. The rubrics are clear in their definitions - the Easter Vigil must begin after nightfall and end before dawn on Sunday. The Gloria, which has not been sung during Lent, is sang and the statues and icons that have been covered with purple are unveiled with great celebration.
Descensus Christi ad Inferos
The Harrowing of Hell is the descent of Christ into Hades to bring salvation to all of the righteous who had died prior to his Resurrection. According to the apocryphal writings in the Gospel of Nicodemus, the raising of Lazarus was a foreshadow to the Harrowing of Hell. The second reading at the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday is a very ancient homily titled The Lord's Descent into Hell (A copy can be found here ). The Catechism states:
By the expression 'He descended into Hell', the Apostles' Creed confesses that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil 'who has the power of death' (Hebrews 2:14). In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened Heaven's gates for the just who had gone before him."