Holy Saturday, Sabbatum Sanctum in Latin, is the last day of Holy Week, and the 40th day of Lent, although Lent ends liturgically on the evening of Holy Thursday. The evening of Holy Saturday begins the third and final day of the Triduum. In the Western Church, no Masses are said on Holy Saturday, and the day is essentially a liturgically sparse time of reflection upon Christ’s death and burial in anticipation of the Great Vigil of Easter (Paschal Vigil). The vigil usually begins the night of Holy Saturday, lasting until Easter morning. Very little happens on Holy Saturday, that is until the beginning of the Great Paschal Vigil.
There is deep symbolism upon which we can reflect on Holy Saturday. On this day, the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, and meditates on His Passion and Death and His descent into Hell. With prayer and fasting we await His glorious Easter resurrection. Mary is also a Holy Saturday symbol. According to Catholic tradition, Mary represents the entire body of the Church. As she awaited in faith for the victorious triumph of Her Son over death on the first Holy Saturday, so we too wait with Mary on the present Holy Saturday. This faithful and prayerful symbolic waiting has been called the Ora della Madre or Hour of the Mother.
In the earliest days, there was no special celebration on Holy Saturday, except perhaps anticipation of the all-night Paschal Vigil. Eventually this emphasis on preparation for the Great Vigil became more emphasized.