“When You did descend to death, O Life Immortal, / You did slay hell with the splendor of Your Godhead, / And when from the depths You did raise the dead, / All the Powers of Heaven cried out, / O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory to You!” (Troparion-hymn of Holy & Great Saturday)
The great “silence” of Holy Saturday, when the God-Man lies in the tomb, is different for all those involved. For Joseph of Arimathea and the women who had seen “how his body was laid,” and now, on the Sabbath, “rested according to the commandment” (Lk 23: 56), it was a day of great mourning and buried hope.
For us, however, today’s “silence” is more like the calm before a storm. Because we know that the Lord of the Sabbath is “working” even as “all mortal flesh” is silent in the face of His horrifying death: “My Father is working still,” He told us on another Saturday, “and I am working.” (Jn 5: 17)
And so it is on this Great and Holy Saturday, when the Source of Life descends into death and hell, not as one defeated, but as Victor; as One Whom “death could not hold.” (Acts 2: 24) He “slays hell” already today, and brings new life, in Him, to those who were stuck there. This is why our icon of the feast of the Resurrection depicts this day, Holy Saturday, or Christ’s victorious descent into Hades. “O Giver of Life,” as we anticipate Your exit from the Tomb in the great silence of today, “Christ our God, glory to You!”