The rite of Saturday of Light (Joyous Saturday).
Joyous Saturday is the night between Good Friday and the Sunday of Resurrection. It is the night of transition that took humanity from the state of death back to life. In this night, we witness God’s salvation at work, as He descended into Hades to break our chains, thereby releasing us from the bondage of Satan. These profound themes are reflected in the readings of Joyous Saturday. Psalm 151 for example, tells us how God chose the young David from amongst his older brothers to defeat Goliath, thus saving the Israelites. Similarly, Christ came to deliver us from Satan, the spiritual Goliath. A second example is the First Canticle, which is the praise the Jews chanted when they crossed the Red Sea after being freed from slavery in Egypt. In the same manner, we chant the same Canticle, symbolizing our freedom from death. Also, in reading Jonah’s prayer, we remember how he dwelt in the fish’s belly for three days, foreshadowing how Christ, who after three days in the tomb, would rise from the dead. Furthermore, we read the account of Susanna, who was to die despite her innocence but was saved and restored to life once more, and of Hannah, Samuel’s mother, whose barren womb became a source of life. The Praise of the Three Young Men is another example, revealing how death and a fiery furnace became life and praise. For this reason, Joyous Saturday is the Saturday of Praise, to glorify the Creator for the great salvation He achieved for the sake of mankind.
Joyous Saturday is the only Saturday of the year on which the Church observes abstinence from food and drink, because on this day the Lord remained buried in the tomb. For this reason the Church is simultaneously mourning and rejoicing. She mourns the passions of the Lord Jesus who died for our sins and was buried in the tomb. Meanwhile, she rejoices at our salvation from death. We find, therefore, that the hymns on this night are chanted in the mournful and annual tunes.
The Rite of the Evening Praise and Day of Joyous Saturday begins with the chanting of the hymn, anok pek pikoji. This is Psalm 151, which the Protestants removed from the modern versions of the Bible. The Exposition of the Second Canticle is then chanted during a procession around the Church three times. The reason the Church placed this hymn after Psalm 151 is to give thanks to the Lord Christ for salvation He gave us from the spiritual Goliath, Satan the enemy. Following this, the First Canticle and its Exposition are chanted. The First Canticle is referred to as the Praise of the Lamb because the Book of Revelation tells us that the victorious who shall inherit the Kingdom were “standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:2,3). After this, several prayers are read in remembrance of the early Church Fathers, followed by the Third Canticle and the Praise of the Three Young Men who were in the fiery furnace. Thus, the Church takes her place and praises the Savior from the fire of this world and its pains, proclaiming that through the God of Powers, She will conquer Death and overcome the fires of Hell.
Aripsaleen , a Greek hymn written by the teacher Sarkis, is then chanted. With it, we invite the Church, nature, and all of creation to praise God. The deacons thereafter chant the Greek hymn Tenen , which briefly describes the miracle of the three young men who praised God in the fiery furnace, honoring them for their great faith. After this, the Virgin Mary’s Song of Praise is said, followed by the Praise of Zechariah the Priest, the Prayer of Simeon the Elder, and finally, the story of Susanna the chaste.Tenoueh `ncwk is then chanted in the annual tune as the deacons proceed around the Church three times. This hymn is taken from the Prayer of Azariah, which he prayed by himself as he stood in the fiery furnace with Hananiah and Meshael. The complete prayer is found in the continuation of the Book of Daniel in the deuteron-canonical books. In this hymn, Azariah proclaims from his heart his faith in and discipleship to the Lord, despite the harsh conditions he was facing.
The Prayers of Prime Raising of Incense commence with the Prayer of Thanksgiving and the chanting of Tenousht . This is followed by the first part of the Prime Adam Doxology, chanted in the annual tune, and followed by the Verses of Cymbals specific to Joyous Saturday (also in the annual tune). Psalm 50 is then prayed, followed by the Litany of the Sick, Pioini entaevmi , neknai opanoti , the Litany of the Departed, and “Graciously O Lord…”. This is then followed by the Watos Psali,`apenchois , the Arabic praise “I begin in the Name of the Holy God”, and the Saturday Theotokia, followed by the First and Second Sherat in the annual tune. The concluding part of `openchois is not chanted. After this, the Litany of Oblations is said, followed by the Praise of Angels and the doxologies, beginning with the Doxology of Joyous Saturday, which is chanted in the annual tune without the last verse specific to the resurrection (long ago, this was the same doxology said on the Feast of Resurrection). The complete Creed is then proclaimed (based on the decision passed by the Holy Synod on June 2, 2001). The priest then prays efnoti nai nan and the deacons chant kieryalason the long tune as they begin to proceed around the altar three times, then three times around the church’s nave. The prophecy of the First Hour of Joyous Saturday is then read, followed by the reading of a homily by St. Athanasius the Apostolic, and the chanting of the Pauline in Coptic. The first part of the Pauline is chanted in the mournful tune, and the rest with the annual tune, followed by the reading in the common language. After this, the Trisagion is chanted, the first verse in the mournful tune, and the rest in the annual, followed by Pachois isos piekhristos, the Litany of the Gospel, and the Psalm. The first part of the Psalm is chanted in the mournful tune, and the rest in the annual. The Gospel is then read in Coptic, followed by the translation in common languages, in the same manner as the Psalm. The five short litanies (Peace, Fathers, Place, Air of Heavens, and Congregation) are prayed, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, the three absolutions, Kieralayson forty-one times, and then the Concluding Canon of the First Hour of Joyous Saturday with its prelude,`P[oic `P[oic `P[oic .
The Agpeya prayers of the Third and Sixth hours begin with the Psalms of the hour without the reading of the Gospel or the absolutions. Instead, the prophecies are read, followed by the Psalm, the first half in the mournful tune, and the rest in the annual. The Gospel is then read in Coptic and its translation in the common language, in the same manner as the Psalm. After this, Kuri`e `eleycon is chanted forty-one times, followed by “Holy, Holy, Holy” and concluded by the Lord’s Prayer. By this, the Church is ready to begin praying the Rite of the Apoghalamsees.
The word Apoghalamsees takes its origin from the Greek work “Apocalypse.” The Copts, however, were used to pronouncing it in that manner. The word itself means “vision” or “revelation.” The entire Book of Revelation is read in this rite. The Rite of the Apoghalamsees begins with the hymn of blessing, Tenousht , followed by the hymn `erepoesmou , after which the priest begins reading the Book of Revelation in Coptic. When mentioning the seven churches, the congregation replies with the hymn Vyeteouon . Similarly, when the tribes are mentioned, the congregation chants the replies appropriate to each tribe. Also, whenever the word “incense” is mentioned, the priest will begin raising incense. Upon reading the word “Alleluia”, the deacons chant “Alleluia” in the same manner it is chanted in the hymn Anok pe pigoji . When the stones of the City’s foundation are read, the priest chants the hymn Anok ainau . This hymn has been lost from the Church; however, many continue to chant it in the same tune as timeet esnou. After mentioning three stones consecutively, the deacons chant the hymn with the addition of `erepensoteer . When the Book of Revelation has been read, the hymn Erepiesmo is chanted one more time, and then the translation in the common language of the Book of Revelation is read. In the end, Kieryalason is chanted three times in the long tune, and the priest anoints the congregation with the Apoghalamsees oil.
After this, the priest and deacons wear their liturgical vestments and commence with the Agpeya prayer of the Ninth Hour, in a similar way with the Prayers of the Third and Sixth Hours. It is worth noting that the Book of Revelation is read between the Sixth and Ninth Hours. This is because the Lord of glory died in the flesh during this time period. From the Sixth to the Ninth hour, Christ hanged upon the Cross. He completed our salvation and brought us from death to life. For this reason, the Church saw it appropriate that the Book of Revelation be read during these hours, since the book itself tells us how God will take the Church from this world of pain, agony and death, and bring Her to eternal joy and life. This, indeed, is what Christ has done on the Cross.
Rite of the Divine Liturgy
The Rite of the Divine Liturgy of Joyous Saturday begins with the offering of the Lamb, without chanting Kieryalason forty-one times, because the prayers of the hour are not said. The Offering’s Alleluia hymn (Alle El-Korban) is not chanted, nor the hymns alelluia fai pe pi or alleluia jeefmevi. `Apinavshopi , however, may be chanted instead. After the Procession of the Lamb, the priest immediately begins with the crossings. Following the Thanksgiving Prayer, Sotis Amen is chanted in the minor tune because salvation is not yet completed (the Resurrection is the completion of salvation). Immediately following the Servants’ Absolution, the Pauline is read in Coptic, half in the mournful tune and the other half in the annual, followed by the translation in the common language. The Catholic Epistle and Praxis are then read, followed by the Trisagion hymn, chanting `O estavrotos dimas all three times, then the Litany of the Gospel. The Psalm is read, followed by the Gospel in Coptic and the common language. Both are read in the same manner as the Pauline. The Gospel Response, pashois pashois , is chanted, then the priest prays the Three Major Litanies, which is followed by the complete proclamation of the Creed. The Prayer of Reconciliation is not said, not only to denounce Judas’ kiss, but because this rite reminds us of the Resurrection. That is, the raising of the Prospherin, symbolises the stone rolled from the tomb, and the bells on the Prospherin symbolize the quaking of the earth. Because the Resurrection has not yet taken place, the Adam Aspasmos is chanted instead, with its the prelude Je qen pekouwini . The Hiten is then chanted, and the Prospherin is raised. The Liturgy continues as in the annual days, including the Commemoration of Saints and the Commemoration of the Departed. In the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Psalm 150 is not chanted. Instead, the hymn Panouti is chanted in the same manner as the melismatic piehmotghar or . Otherwise, the `Eaghape tune may be used.
The Divine Liturgy must be completed prior to sunset so that none of the believers would commune twice in the same evening. Because the Divine Liturgy ends just before sunset, there is no Vespers Raising of Incense for the Feast of the Resurrection. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the Concluding Canon specific to Passion (Pascha) Week is chanted.
May the Lord bless everyone with the blessings of the holy Joyous Saturday, and glory be to God forever. Amen.
Mikhail, Deacon Albair Gamal, The Essentials in the Deacon’s Service, (Shobra, Egypt: Shikolani, 2002), p. 621-624. Translated from Arabic by Ragy Sharkawy, edited by Mena Rizkalla.