“Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began.” (Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 45C: LH, Holy Saturday, OR)
Holy Saturday is the day of great silence where Catholics consider the death of Jesus Christ. They are encouraged to ask: what is significant about His death, and about the silence in the tomb? First, the Church teaches that the death of Christ was necessary for the redemption of mankind; it wasn’t simply the sufferings of Christ that saved, but the separation of the soul from the body. For the consequences of Original Sin caused two deaths. The first is the physical death: the separation of the soul from the body. The second death is eternal life separated from God. Through experiencing the first death, Jesus redeemed man from the second death.
“God [the Son] did not impede death from separating His soul from His body according to the necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the Resurrection, so that He Himself might be, in His person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in Himself the decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the separated parts.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. Catech., 16: pg 45, 52D)
The silence of the tomb is important because it is remembered that Jesus descended into Hell, the abode of the dead, not to free the damned, or end damnation, but to free the good men who went before Him.
“He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him . . . I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.” (Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 45C: LH, Holy Saturday, OR)