On Holy and Great Saturday we gather in the early morning for what is known as the First, or Small, Resurrection. The Great Vespers of Pascha includes prophecies from Jonah in which we witness the resurrection of Christ foretold to us centuries before it ever took place. Then something glorious takes place after the Old Testament Readings and Epistle.
Instead of the normal Alleluia verses, the Church rings out with bells and singing. “Arise O God and judge the Earth, for You shall rule all nations through Your inheritance.” Bay leaves fly through the Church as even the Earth celebrates the announcement that Christ is no longer in the Tomb.
The Church celebrates Christ’s journey to Hades and His raising of Adam and Eve, John the Baptist and the rest of the righteous men and women of the Old Testament. The Church celebrates Christ rescuing us from death.
Today is the ONLY Saturday of the entire year when strict fasting is practiced to commemorate Christ’s time in Hades. We will celebrate with Him again when He is resurrected. Until tonight, we celebrate in anticipation of His victory.