SATURDAY, HOLY SATURDAY /EASTER VIGIL
Gn 1:1–2:2; Gn 22:1-18; Ex 14:15–15:1; Is 54:5-14; Is 55:1-11; …
Rom 6:3-11; Ps 118; Mt 28:1-10
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Today is Holy Saturday, the final day of Holy Week, where the Church waits silently; fasting and praying at the tomb of Jesus awaiting His glorious resurrection. Today, there are no crosses for veneration, no exposition of the blessed sacrament and no celebration of the Eucharist either. Holy Saturday is a stark reminder of how things would have been perpetual, if the Lord had not risen from the tomb.
According to the document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis: On Holy Saturday the Church is, as it were, at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting. It is recommended that on this day the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer be celebrated with the participation of the people. Where this cannot be done, there should be some celebration of the Word of God, or some act of devotion suited to the mystery celebrated this day (n. 73). The image of Christ crucified or lying in the tomb, or the descent into hell, which mystery Holy Saturday recalls, as also an image of the sorrowful Virgin Mary can be placed in the church for the veneration of the faithful (n. 74). The Holy Saturday sets only to give birth to the Easter Vigil.
The Easter Vigil, the mother of all vigils, is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities. It is the Passover of the new covenant, ushered in by Christ’s victory over death. The Easter Vigil celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead which is the very foundation of the Christian faith. We believe that because Jesus died and rose again, we too rise again with Him (cf. 1 Thes 4:14). The Easter Vigil is very rich in symbolism.
The Lucernarium or the Liturgy of Light: The church shrouded in darkness is contrasted by a blazing fire lit outside the church. The Easter candle representing Jesus Christ is lit from the fire, as the deacon/priest processes into the dark Church and stops three times, proclaiming “Christ, our Light!” By the time he reaches the sanctuary, the entire church is blazing with candles that were lit from the Easter candle – the Risen Lord in whom light has conquered the darkness of sin and evil.
The Exsultet or the Easter Proclamation: When the Easter candle arrives in the sanctuary, the deacon chants the Exsultet, from its first word in Latin, “Rejoice”, an ancient hymn that speaks of the many mysteries of this night. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world. which captures the whole Easter mystery placed within the context of the economy of salvation is sung.
The Liturgy of the Word: From Genesis through the New Testament, God’s marvellous plan is unfolded. The Church wishes to offer us a panoramic view of the whole trajectory of salvation history, starting with creation, passing through the election and the liberation of Israel to the testimony of the prophets by which this entire history is directed ever more clearly towards Jesus Christ. In the liturgical tradition, all these readings were called prophecies. Even when they are not directly foretelling future events, they have a prophetic character, they show us the inner foundation and orientation of history. They cause creation and history to become transparent to what is essential. In this way they take us by the hand and lead us towards Christ, they show us the true Light. The readings are interspersed with chanted psalms.
The Baptismal Liturgy: Baptism is more than a bath, a purification. It is more than becoming part of a community. It is a new birth. A new beginning in life. The passage of the Letter to the Romans which we have just read says, in words filled with mystery, that in Baptism we have been “grafted” onto Christ by likeness to his death. In Baptism we give ourselves over to Christ – he takes us unto himself, so that we no longer live for ourselves, but through him, with him and in him; so that we live with him and thus for others.
Depending on the circumstances of each community/parish, a baptismal liturgy is performed. This is the liturgy at which all those who have been preparing to join the Church, or to complete their sacraments as older children or adults, are initiated into the Christian community. The celebration of Baptism or a Profession of Faith and Confirmation takes place at this time. Later on in the Mass, the newly baptised will receive their First Communion.
Regardless of whether someone will be baptized or not, the water of the baptismal font is blessed in order to prepare for those who will be washed clean from their sins and reborn in the death of Christ. The sacrament is commemorated by the faithful renewing their baptismal vows and by the blessing of the water which is sprinkled on the faithful gathered.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist: As the day of the Resurrection, is the day for the encounter of the Church with God through Jesus Christ who as the Risen Lord encountered his followers on the first day, Sunday, after they had found the tomb empty. The structure of the week is overturned. No longer does it point towards the seventh day, as the time to participate in God’s rest. It sets out from the first day as the day of encounter with the Risen Lord. This encounter happens afresh at every celebration of the Eucharist, when the Lord enters anew into the midst of his disciples and gives himself to them, allows himself, so to speak, to be touched by them and sits down at table with them. We are reminded “about the preciousness of so great a mystery, which is the climax of initiation and the centre of the Christian life”. As we celebrate Easter, let the Alleluia we sing propel us to a new life of light and glory.
Response: I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously.
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