Holy Saturday is one of those holidays that for most seems to be only a gap. We see the re-enactments of Christ’s passion on Good Friday and the celebrations of his resurrection on Easter. But what happened between the two?
What took place is what used to be called the “harrowing of hell”, i.e., when Christ came though the underworld (with, implicitly, the repentant thief in tow) and brought out all of those who had looked forward to his coming. It’s a topic that brings out a lot of Biblical discussion, but that’s the bottom line.
But the ones who looked forward to his coming weren’t the only one’s Our Lord interacted with. As St. John of Damascus (The Orthodox Faith, III, 29) tells us:
The soul when it was deified descended into Hades, for, just as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) rose for those upon the earth, so likewise He might bring light to those who sit under the earth in darkness and shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2): for just as He brought the message of peace to those upon the earth, and of release to the prisoners, and of sight to the blind , and became to those who believed the Author of everlasting salvation and to those who did not believe a reproach of their unbelief (1 Peter 3:19), so He might become the same to those in Hades : That every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth. Philippians 2:10 And thus after He had freed those who had been bound for ages, straightway He rose again from the dead, showing us the way of resurrection.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we say “on earth as it is in heaven”, but this is an example of how the other place reflects earthly realities. While Jesus was on the earth, some accepted his teaching, some rejected it vehemently. When he passed through hell, it was the same thing: some had looked forward to him and accepted his teaching, others that didn’t had rejected him. Needless to say, what they thought about what he said was entirely different.
It’s the same today: some accept him, some reject him. In this life, however, we can choose; in the next one, we cannot. Holy Saturday, the “gap” that it is for many, is a good time to make the choice one way or another.