On Saturdays, the Orthodox Church remembers the Most Holy Mother of God and the faithful departed. During Holy Week, the Church celebrates Christ’s descent to the dead and His trampling down death by death on Holy Saturday, just as a week before on Lazarus Saturday, it remembers Christ’s raising Lazarus from the tomb. Throughout the year, but especially during Great Lent, there are a number of Saturdays that are “Soul Saturdays,” or days on which the departed are remembered and prayed for. At no time can we forget the triumph of Christ and the hope of the departed.
I have not found good sources to speak about Saturday’s association with the Mother of God. Doubtless a reader or two will have something to share with the rest of us. As I thought about this myself (and thus you should take it for nothing more than my thought) I recalled verses associated with the Mother of God:
The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore. For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. (Psalm 132:11-16)
The fulfillment of these verses are linked to the Incarnation. The resting place and habitation of God (Zion) is frequently understood by the fathers and the hymnody of the Church to refer to the Mother of God. She is the “ark of God’s rest.” It was this particular thought that made a connection for me with Saturday, the day of rest. For the true rest of God is found in His habitation, most perfectly fulfilled in the womb of the Virgin.
I would gladly hear more of this good day and the joy it gives us all.
In the 4th Tone
Rejoice, O Virgin, Theotokos
The Lord is with Thee.
Blessed art Thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of Thy womb,
For thou hast borne the Savior of our Souls.
It occurs to me (and so, therefore, it is my mere opinion) that there’s a parallel between the Ark of God’s rest–the Theotokos–and the Sabbath of Sabbaths, Holy Saturday in the Holy Sepulcher, where Christ lies, resting from His Work of Recreation.
In both cases, the seed of Life is planted into ground that had been cursed with death, and in both cases, there was a time of waiting, of anticipation, of relative rest (though the Harrowing of Hades was hardly passive, I know) before the revelation of what had been hidden. The One buried in the belly of the cursed ground is the same One that had been enclosed for nine months in the womb of one descended from the one formed from that same ground. After being enclosed in something bound to mortality, Christ not only springs forth as Life Incarnate, but also enlivens the ground and all in it: The Virgin is purified by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and the flame of the Logos that does not consume her, and the tombs and those in them have life bestowed on them by the One that lay dormant only the Sabbath before.
So I suppose we reverence both the resting place of the Holy Infant–as well as the Sepulcher of the Holy Man He would become–on the same day because even as we wait for the revelation of Christ tomorrow in the Eucharist, we remember that there’s saving even in the waiting.
That works for me, too.
I love the image of the Theotokos from Psalm 44 (LXX):
“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. … At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colours. Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; and forget thine own people and thy father’s house. And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty, for He Himself is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him. And Him shall the daughters of Tyre worship with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance. All the glory of the daughter of the King is within, with gold-fringed garments is she arrayed, adorned in varied colours. The virgins that follow after her shall be brought unto the King, those near her shall be brought unto Thee. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing, they shall be brought into the temple of the King.”
pray for me,