April 23, 2011

Synaxarion for Holy and Great Saturday

By Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos


On Holy and Great Saturday, we celebrate the Burial of the Divine Body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, and His descent into Hades, through which our race was recalled from corruption, and was transplanted to eternal life.


In vain you watchmen guard the tomb.
No grave can contain the Source of Life.


Of all the days the Holy and Great Forty Day Fast is the most distinguished, but more than the Holy Forty Day Fast the Holy and Great Passion Week is exalted, and more than the days of Holy Week Great and Holy Saturday is the most exalted. This week is called great not because these days or hours are more exalted but because the great, portentous and extraordinary deeds of our Savior were accomplished during this week, but especially on this day.

Yet, as during the first creation of the world God created all creation in six days and on the sixth day he created the final and entirely perfect creature, Man, and then on the seventh he rested from all His work, thus sanctifying this day, calling it the Sabbath Day, which means rest. Thus He sanctified the workmanship of the intelligible world, all wonderfully done (the action of redemption), and on the sixth day (Friday) "refashioning" the corrupted man and renewing him through His life-bearing Cross and death. The Lord really rested again on the seventh day with the complete rest from His works, having reposed in a way that is life-producing and saving for our nature. Therefore God the Word descended into the tomb in the flesh and descended into Hades with His immortal and divine soul, which was separated from the body after death. He delivered His soul into the hands of the Father. He freely offered His own blood in order to bring about our deliverance.

But the soul of the Lord was not held captive in Hades as were the souls of the other holy ones. Why? Because He never participated in the curse of the Forefather as those did. Our enemy the devil did not even touch the blood by which we are redeemed even though he owned us as much as he could, and did not the devil like a predator seize the One sent from God, but God Himself? However, our Lord Jesus Christ was bodily placed in the tomb with His Divinity which was completely united with the flesh, but He was also in paradise with the thief and, as it is told, in Hades with His deifying soul, supernaturally co-presiding with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He was everywhere as the uncircumscribed God, and the Divinity did not suffer at all neither in the tomb nor on the cross. The Lord's body was tested and the corruption, i.e. the separation of the soul from the body, did not destroy the flesh and corrode its members.

In Thy ineffable condescension, O Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.

He who closed the depth of the sea is beheld wrapped in linen and embalmed with myrrh; the deathless One is placed in a tomb like one who is dead. The women came to embalm him, weeping bitterly and crying: Behold the Sabbath transcendent in blessings in which Christ has slept and shall rise on the third day.

He who holds the whole universe in his hand is raised upon the Cross, and all creation weeps as it sees him hanging on the Wood: the sun hides its rays, and the stars lose their brightness; the earth quakes and is filled with fear; the sea draws back and the rocks split in two; the tombs open and the bodies of the saints rise; Hades laments and the Sanhedrin gathers to fabricate story to deny the Resurrection of Christ; and the women cry out: Behold the Sabbath transcendent in blessings in which Christ has slept and shall rise on the third day.