It Is the Day of Resurrection!: Holy Pascha and the empty tomb

Christ went down alone to battle Hades,
He came up taking with Him many spoils of victory.

-Synaxarion of Holy Pascha
Anastasis Icon, Chora Church, Constantinople
Sometimes it is when life seems at its lowest, when the pain of the present circumstances seems most unbearable, when hope seems most fully to have died out, that life springs unexpectedly from the grave. Sometimes we find that it is only by staying present within life's uncertainties that we are able to push through to the joy that waits on the other side of suffering.
That was surely the experience that the Apostles had while Jesus lay in the grave. Even more than that, imagine the suffering that Mary endured watching Jesus being taken down from the Cross and laid in a tomb. Mary's suffering was perhaps twice what the Apostles experienced; her son and her God died on the Cross on Holy Friday. Icons of the lamentation over Christ's body show his mother as a woman completely undone by her sorrow.
Lamentations over Christ, Skopje, FYROM
The engkomia (Lamentations) hymns that sung at the Orthros service of Holy Saturday show us the intensity of Mary's suffering:
Tears of lamentation
she pours out over you,
as your mother the pure Virgin, O Jesus, cries,
"How my son am I to lay you in the tomb?"
Another of these hymns shows Mary's pain at her son's crucifixion as making up for the painlessness of her childbirth:
"Of all woman-kind
I alone bore you, my child, without pain;
cruel pangs now wrack me as I behold
your great suffering", the Holy Virgin cries.
This pain is what had been prophesied to her long ago when she laid her son in the arms of the righteous Symeon at his Presentation in the Temple.
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed,” (Luke 2:34-45).
The Sabbath day comes, that ancient day given by God to his people as a day of rest. "Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord," (Exodus 35:2). Christ's body rests in the tomb. The Sabbath day finds its fulfillment. But while his body is resting, his soul is working.
Christ has now descended into Hades, and there he is putting into effect his victory over death. He is freeing all who have been held captive there. The icon above shows Christ victorious over Hades. He tramples down the gates of Hades, throwing their locks and keys into the pit. He pulls Adam and Eve up from their torment by their wrists while all the prophets look on at the fulfillment of their vision.
The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom, which is read every year at the Paschal vigil, gives victorious expression to Christ's defeat of Hades:
[Hades]  received  a  body  and  came  upon  God. It  received  earth  and  met  up  with  heaven. It  received what it saw and stumbled upon what it did not see. Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life rules.
Christ is risen, and not one is to be found dead in the tomb.
Early in the morning on the third day after Christ's death, a group of women came to his tomb with spices and ointments to anoint Jesus' body. They were at the lowest point of their lives, experiencing a depth of mourning that they had never thought possible. What they meet with when they arrive at Jesus' tomb is an unexpected joy. They find an empty tomb.
The Empty Tomb, Church of the Resurrection, Jerusalem
At the Paschal vigil in Orthodox Churches around the world, around midnight, something incredible takes place. The entire Church is darkened. Not a single light is to be seen anywhere. A hushed expectation falls over the congregation, who in their hope hold unlit candles. Then, a single light pierces the shade. A single source of brightness pierces the gloom. A single flame comes out from the altar into the darkness of the Church.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, (John 1:4-5).
The priest, holding this one light, sings in a loud voice "Come, receive the light from the Light that is never overtaken by night, and glorify Christ who is risen from the dead." The faithful come forward with their candles, and the one light becomes their own light.
There is no darkness in all of creation-- no war, no drought, no famine, no virus-- that can stop the one light of Christ's resurrection from becoming our own light. There is no sorrow that can overcome the joy of Christ.
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,
(Romans 8:34-25, 37-39).
Because we have received this light that is never overtaken, let us all with uplifted hearts announce our joy to the world. From our Churches as well as from our homes, let us shout in rejoicing the Paschal greeting that is the one truth that overcomes all falsehood:
Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!
Χριστός ανέστη! Αληθώς ανέστη!
Хрїсто́съ воскре́се! Вои́стинꙋ воскре́се!
المسيح قام! حقا قام!
¡Cristo resucitó! ¡En verdad resucitó!
Glory to His holy Resurrection on the third day! We worship His Resurrection on the third day!
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life. Truly the Lord is risen!