|Holy Saturday / Easter Vigil
Date: Saturday, April 3, 2010
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.
On this day the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass. Holy Communion may be given only in the form of Viaticum.
Holy Saturday Night – The Easter Vigil
According to a most ancient tradition, this night is “one of vigil for the Lord,” and the Vigil celebrated during it, to commemorate that holy night when the Lord rose from the dead, is regarded as the “Mother of all Holy Vigils.” For in that night the Church keeps vigil, waiting for the Resurrection of the Lord and celebrates the Sacraments of Christian Initiation.
“The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday.” This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense.
The Passover Vigil, in which the Hebrews kept watch for the Lord’s Passover which was to free them from slavery to Pharaoh, was an annual commemoration. It prefigured the true Pasch of Christ that was to come, the night that is of true liberation, in which “destroying the bonds of death, Christ rose as victor from the depths.”
From the very outset the Church has celebrated that annual Pasch, which is the Solemnity of Solemnities, above all by means of a night vigil. For the Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope, and through Baptism and Confirmation we are inserted into the Paschal Mystery of Christ, dying, buried and raised with Him, and with Him we shall also reign. The full meaning of this Vigil is a waiting for the coming of the Lord.
The Order of the Easter Vigil:
First Part: Service of Light and Easter Proclamation
Second Part: Liturgy of the Word. Holy Church meditates on the
wonderful works which the Lord God wrought for His people from the earliest times.
Third Part: New members reborn in Baptism
Fourth Part: The Church is called to the table prepared by the Lord for His
Church, the commemoration of His death and resurrection
until He comes in glory.
73. 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, (75) and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting. It is highly recommended that on this day the Office of Readings . and Morning Prayer be celebrated with the participation of the people (cf. n. 40). (76) 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 on this day.
74. 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.
75. On this day the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass. (77) Holy Communion may be given only in the form of Viaticum. The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.
76. The faithful are to be instructed on the special character of Holy Saturday. (78) Festive customs and traditions associated with this day on account of the former practice of anticipating the celebration of Easter on Holy Saturday should be reserved for Easter night and the day that follows.
77. According to a most ancient tradition, this night is "one of vigil for the Lord", (79) and the Vigil celebrated during it, to commemorate that holy night when the Lord rose from the dead, is regarded as the "mother of all holy vigils". (80) For in that night the Church keeps vigil, waiting for the resurrection of the Lord, and celebrates the sacraments of Christian initiation. (81)
1. The meaning of the nocturnal character of the Easter Vigil
78. "The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday". (82) This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept in in many places in violation of this ruling, whereby the Easter Vigil is celebrated at the time of day that it is customary to celebrate anticipated Sunday Masses. (83)
Those reasons which have been advanced in some quarters for the anticipation of the Easter Vigil, such as lack of public order, are not put forward in connection with Christmas night, nor other gatherings of various kinds.
79. The Passover Vigil, in which the Hebrews kept watch for the Lord's passover which was to free them from slavery to Pharaoh, was an annual commemoration. It prefigured the true Pasch of Christ that was to come, the night that is of true liberation, in which "destroying the bonds of death, Christ rose as victor from the depths". (84)
80. From the very outset the Church has celebrated that annual Pasch, which is the solemnity of solemnities, above all by means of a night vigil. For the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope, and through Baptism and Confirmation we are inserted into the paschal mystery of Christ, dying, buried, and raised with him, and with him we shall also reign. (85)
The full meaning of this Vigil is a waiting for the coming of the Lord. (86)
2. The structure of the Easter Vigil and the significance of its different elements and parts
81. The, order of the Easter Vigil is so arranged that after the service of light and the Easter Proclamation, (which is the first part of the Vigil), Holy Church meditates on the wonderful works which the Lord God wrought for his people from the earliest times, (the second part or Liturgy of the Word), to the moment when, together with those new members reborn in Baptism (third part), she is called to the table prepared by the Lord for his Church, the commemoration of his death and resurrection, until he comes (fourth part). (87)
This liturgical order must not be changed by anyone on his own initiative.
82. The first part consists of symbolic acts and gestures, which require that they be performed in all their fullness and nobility, so that their meaning, as explained by the introductory words of the celebrant and the liturgical prayers, may be truly understood by the faithful.
In so far as possible, a suitable place should be prepared outside the church for the blessing of the new fire, whose flames should be such that they genuinely dispel the darkness and light up the night.
The paschal candle should be prepared, which for effective symbolism must be made of wax, never be artificial, be renewed each year, be only one in number, and be of sufficiently large size, so that it may evoke the truth that Christ is the light of the world. It is blessed with the signs and words prescribed in the Missal or by the conference of bishops. (88)
83. The procession, by which the people enter the church, should be led by the light of the paschal candle alone. Just as the children of Israel were guided at night by a pillar of fire, so similarly Christians follow the risen Christ. There is no reason why to each response "Thanks be to God" there should not be added some acclamation in honour of Christ.
The light from the paschal candle should be gradually passed to the candles which it is fitting that all present should hold in their hands, the electric lighting being switched off.
84. The deacon makes the Easter Proclamation, which tells by means of a great poetic text the whole Easter mystery placed in the context of the economy of
salvation. In case of necessity, where there is no deacon, and the celebrating priest is unable to sing it, a cantor may do so. The bishops' conferences may adapt this proclamation by inserting into it acclamations from the people. (89)
85. The readings from Sacred Scripture constitute the second part of the Vigil. They give an account of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation, which the faithful are helped to meditate calmly upon by the singing of the responsorial psalm, by a silent pause, and by the celebrant's prayer.
The restored "Order" of the Vigil has seven readings from the Old Testament chosen from the Law and the Prophets, which are generally in use according to the most ancient tradition of East and West, and two readings from the New Testament, namely, from the Apostle and from the Gospel. Thus the Church, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets" explains Christ's paschal mystery. (90) Consequently wherever this is possible, all the readings should be read in order that the character of the Easter Vigil, which demands the time necessary, be respected at all costs.
Where, however, pastoral conditions require that the number of readings be reduced, there should be at least three readings from the Old Testament, taken from the Law and the Prophets; and the reading from Exodus chapter 14 with its canticle must never be omitted. (91)
86. The typological import of the Old Testament texts is rooted in the New, and is made plain by the prayer pronounced by the celebrating priest after each reading; but it will also be helpful to introduce the people to the meaning of each reading by means of a brief introduction. This introduction may be given by the priest. himself or by a deacon.
National or diocesan liturgical commissions will prepare aids for pastors.
Each reading is followed by the singing of a psalm, to which the people respond.
Melodies should be provided for these responses which are capable of promoting the people's participation and devotion. (92) Great care is to be taken that trivial songs do not take the place of the psalms.
87. After the readings from the Old Testament, the hymn "Gloria in excelsis" is sung, the bells are rung in accordance with local custom, the collect is recited, and the celebration moves on to the readings from the New Testament. There is read an exhortation from the Apostle on Baptism as an insertion into Christ's paschal mystery.
Then all stand and the priest intones the "Alleluia" three times, each time raising the pitch. The people repeat it after him. (93) If it is necessary, the psalmist or cantor may sing the "Alleluia", which the people then take up as an acclamation to be interspersed between the verses of psalm 117, which is so often cited by the Apostles in their Easter preaching (94). Finally the Resurrection of the Lord is proclaimed from the Gospel as the high point of the whole Liturgy of the Word. After the Gospel a homily is to be given, no matter how brief.
88. The third part of the Vigil is the baptismal liturgy. Christ's passover and ours is now celebrated. This is given full expression in those churches which have a baptismal font, and more so when the Christian initiation of adults is held, or at least the Baptism of infants. (95) Even if there are no candidates for Baptism, the blessing of baptismal water should still take place in parish churches. If this blessing does not take place at the baptismal font but in the sanctuary, baptismal water should be carried afterwards to the baptistery there to be kept throughout the whole of paschal time. (96) Where there are neither candidates for Baptism nor any need to bless the font, Baptism should be commemorated by blessing of water destined for sprinkling upon the people. (97)
89. Next follows the renewal of baptismal promises, introduced by some words on the part of the celebrating priest. The faithful reply to the questions put to them, standing and holding lighted candles in their hands. They are then sprinkled with water; in this way the gestures and words recall to them the Baptism they have received. The celebrating priest passes through the main part of the church and sprinkles the people while all sing the antiphon "Vidi aquam" or another suitable song of a baptismal character. (98)
90. The celebration of the Eucharist forms the fourth part of the Vigil and marks its high point, for it is in the fullest sense the Easter Sacrament, that is to say, the commemoration of the sacrifice of the Cross and the presence of the risen Christ, the completion of Christian initiation, and the foretaste of the eternal pasch.
91. Great care should be taken that this Eucharistic Liturgy is not celebrated in haste; indeed, all the rites and words must be given their full force: the general intercessions in which for the first time the neophytes now as members of the faithful exercise their priesthood; (99) the procession at the offertory in which the neophytes, if there are any, take part; the first, second or third Eucharistic Prayer, preferably sung, with their proper embolisms; (100) and finally Eucharistic Communion, as the moment of full participation in the mystery that is being celebrated. It is appropriate that at Communion there be sung psalm 117 with the antiphon "Pascha nostrum", or psalm 33 with the antiphon "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia", or some other song of Easter exultation.
92. It is fitting that in the Communion of the Easter Vigil full expression be given to the symbolism of the Eucharist, namely, by consuming the Eucharist under the species of both bread and wine. The local ordinaries will consider the appropriateness of such a concession and the relevant circumstances. (101)
3. Some pastoral considerations
93. The Easter Vigil Liturgy should be celebrated in such a way as to offer to the Christian people the riches of the prayers and rites. It is therefore important that authenticity be respected, that the participation of the faithful be promoted, and that the celebration should not take place without servers, readers and choir exercising their roles.
94. It would be desirable if on occasion provision were made for several communities to assemble in one church, wherever their proximity one to another or small numbers mean that a full and festive celebration could not otherwise take place.
The celebration of the Easter Vigil for special groups is not to be encouraged, since above all in this Vigil the faithful should come together as one and should experience a sense of ecclesial community.
The faithful who are absent from their parish on vacation, should be urged to participate in the liturgical celebration in the place where they happen to be.
95. In announcements concerning the Easter Vigil care should be taken not to present it as the concluding period of Holy Saturday, but rather it should be stressed that the Easter Vigil is celebrated "during Easter night", and that it is one single act of worship. Pastors should be advised that in giving catechesis to the people they should be taught to participate in the Vigil in its entirety. (102)
96. For a better celebration of the Easter Vigil, it is necessary that pastors themselves have an ever deeper knowledge of both text and rites, so as to give a proper mystagogical catechesis to the people.
75) Cf. Roman Missal, Holy Saturday; The Apostles' Creed; 1 Pet 3:19.
76) Cf. General Instruction of the Liturgy of the flours, n. 210.
77) Roman Missal, Holy Saturday.
78) SRC, Decr. Maxima redemptionis nostrae mysteria (16 Nov. 1955), n. 2, AAS 47 (1955), 843.
79) Cf. Ex 12:42.
80) St Augustine, Sermo 219, PL 38, 1088.
81) Caeremoniale episcoporum, n. 332.
82) Cf. Ibidem, n. 332; Roman Missal, The Easter Vigil, n. 3.
83) SRC, Instr. Eucharisticum mysterium, (25 May 1967) n. 28; AAS 59 (1967), 556-557.
84) Roman Missal, The Easter Vigil, n. 19, Easter Proclamation.
85) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 6; cf. Rom 6:3-6; Eph 2:5-6; Col 2:12-13; 2 Tim 2:11-12.
86) "We keep vigil on that night because the Lord rose from the dead; that life... where there is no longer the sleep of death, began for us in his flesh; being thus risen, death will be no more nor have dominion... If we have kept vigil for the risen one, he will see that we shall reign with him for ever". St Augustine, Sermo Guelferbytan., 5, 4, PLS 2, 552,
87) Cf. Roman Missal, The Easter Vigil, n. 7
88) Cf. Ibidem, nn. 10.12.
89) Cf. Ibidem, n. 17.
90) Lk 24:27; cf. Lk 24:44-45.
91) Cf. Roman Missal, The Easter Vigil, n. 21.
92) Cf. Ibidem, n. 23.
93) Cf. Caeremoniale Episcoporum, n. 352.
94) Cf. Acts 4:11-12; Mt 21:42; Mk 12:10; Lk 20:17.
95) Cf. The Roman Ritual, Rite of Baptism for Children, n. 6.
96) Cf. Roman Missal, The Easter Vigil, n. 48.
97) Cf. Ibidem, n. 45.
98) Cf. Ibidem, n. 47.
99) Cf. Ibidem, n. 49; The Roman Ritual, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, n. 36.
100) Cf. Roman Missal, The Easter Vigil, n. 53; Ibidem, Ritual Masses, 3. Baptism.
101) Cf. Roman Missal, General Instruction nn. 240-242.
102) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 106.
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