Greek Orthodox Holy Saturday Religious Service Overview

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Holy Saturday is utilized by the Orthodox Christian church to commemorate when Jesus Christ was buried and descended to hell. It is the second day of the three days that Jesus was buried. The point of the service is to expect the joyous celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection that occurred on Sunday.

It is important to remark that there is a time of mourning of the Holy Saturday service. This is used to grieve the death and burial of Christ before He was resurrected. There are many icons and celebratory pieces that go into the Holy Saturday services.

The biggest service is the one that occurs at night and overlaps into Easter Day. The evening service is concluded with saying “Christ is Risen” (Christos Anesti)  and “Truly He is Risen” (Alithos Anesti) Here’s more information about this service:

About Holy Saturday Service Holy Saturday

As mentioned, Holy Saturday is utilized to focus on when death was defeated once and for all upon Jesus’ descent into hell. The grave is seen as a place of redemption rather than a place of hopelessness. It is a day to feel grief over the death of Jesus, but wait for an overwhelming joy that comes from His resurrection.

The Sabbath is known as the day of rest, and this Sabbath was the greatest rest of all. This was the act of fulfillment of God’s plan for salvation and resurrection to all who come to Him. The icon of Holy Saturday depicts Mary Magdalene, Mary, John and Joseph of Arimathea preparing the body for burial.

Details of Holy Saturday Service

A priest will begin the service during the Third Stasis reading by sprinkling the Epitaphios with rosewater, as well as people who need to be sprinkled. The service is concluded with saints exiting by circling the Epitaphios and singing the Thrice-Holy hymn. People will hold candles as part of the custom during this important moment.

There are many Scripture readings throughout the service as well. There is a liturgy that is also held in the morning from Saint Basil the Great. It begins with the Vespers and ends with the Communion Hymn.

Hymns for the Holy Saturday Service

Hymns are an important part of Holy Saturday. They are sung during the liturgy and the service. Each has significance to the representation of the burial of Jesus and His defeat of sin.

The Resurrectoinal Apolytikia is sung to discuss the burial of Jesus. It also discusses the ointments that were prepared for Him and the war he had in hell to defeat death. The Prokemenon is a song of anticipation in which a song is sung to seek out the resurrection of Christ.

Here are the words for the hymns that are either sung or chanted during this service:

Resurrectional Apolytikia

When he took down Your immaculate Body from the Cross, the honorable Joseph wrapped it in a clean linen shroud with spices and laid it for burial in a new tomb.

When You descended unto death, O Lord who yourself are immortal Life, then did You mortify Hades by the lightning flash of Your Divinity. Also when You raised the dead from the netherworld, all the Powers of the heavens were crying out: O Giver of life, Christ our God, glory be to You.

The Angel standing at the sepulcher cried out and said to the ointment-bearing
women: The ointments are appropriate for mortal men, but Christ has been shown to be a stranger to decay.


Arise, O God; judge the earth, for You shall inherit all the Gentiles.


Holy Saturday

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This post was written by Greek Boston