What Is Holy Saturday & 3 Ideas for How to Observe It

And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. (Luke 23:55 NKJV)

Though it’s often bypassed as a lull between the crucifixion and resurrection, Holy Saturday—the day before Easter Sunday (also known as Easter Even)—is an important day of remembrance that “commemorates the resting of Christ’s body in the tomb”1 and traditionally, his descent into Hades (the place of the dead).3

This would have been the day Jesus’ body would have been anointed with spices and oils. However, because it was the weekly Sabbath, the anointing would have to wait until the next day.

3 ideas for observing Holy Saturday

  1. Because Jesus was in the tomb on a Sabbath, many people like to observe this day by resting and remembering the events that transpired the previous week.
  2. Read and reflect on Matthew 27:62–66, the only passage in the Bible clearly referencing Holy Saturday events.
  3. Spend some time looking up and reflecting on verses about Sabbath rest, like Genesis 2:3, Deuteronomy 5:15, Mark 2:23–28, Matthew 12:12, and Colossians 2:16–17. Filter what you learn through what the writer of Hebrews says: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).

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  1. F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 787.
  2. On the Hebrew calendar, it’s the weekly Sabbath that fell during Holy Week.

    Holy Saturday is generally observed by the Catholic Church, marked with a 40-hour prayer vigil between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But other denominations celebrate Holy Saturday too. Some light fires and candles and ring bells announcing Lent is over. Some Christians see Holy Saturday as the day Jesus rested from his work of providing salvation.2https://www.gotquestions.org/Holy-Saturday.html

Written by
Karen Engle

Karen Engle is a copy editor for Faithlife. She has a master's in biblical studies and theology from Western Seminary and frequently takes groups to Israel.

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Written by Karen Engle
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