March 26, 2016 – Holy Saturday / Easter Vigil

March 26, 2016 – Holy Saturday

“Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, all time belongs to him and all the ages.” (Saturday, Evening prayer Antiphon)

click on this “link” to get to all nine scriptures for this Vigil Liturgy. 

There are only two days in the year when Mass is not celebrated – per-say: Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The Mass on Holy Saturday is actually the vigil Mass of Easter. In my growing up years, before any of the changes in liturgy came about, I can remember the Liturgy of Holy Thursday when the focus was clearly on the gift of the Eucharist complete with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to a special altar decorated to be the “Altar of Repose” The Celebrant carried just one large-size, consecrated host which was held on the paten and covered with a square white cloth which was tied around the stem of a chalice. There’s an interesting Jewish connection here that I only realized after attending a Jewish “Seder” while in the Holy Land. During the Seder, the leader takes one “matzo” from those presented and wraps it in a napkin and ties it with a cord and then hides it away – especially from the children present. The one who finds the hidden matzo receives some special recognition and is considered privileged in the coming year. I’m claiming that this was the intent of the one consecrated host which also was also tied with a napkin like cloth and hidden in the Altar of Repose. We have to remember that in those days, it was only the one priest who led the Good Friday liturgy who received Holy Communion on Good Friday. There are many more interesting connections in our Liturgies of Holy Week that have gotten lost after several modifications. All that being said, we need to see this day as a day of solemn waiting in the expectation of the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil which starts out as a kind of “not quite there, yet liturgy” that focuses on the people who are being welcomed into the full participation with the Church. It’s just one more opportunity for all of us to re-think our own commitment to follow the Risen Christ. The Scripture readings for this Liturgy are one last attempt to spell out the entire history of salvation through Jesus Christ.

To help all of us get that point, the Liturgy should begin in darkness; and gradually come into full light when all of the candles that the congregation is carrying are lit from the one “Light of Christ” – the paschal candle which will be kept burning all throughout the Easter Season. Sometimes we Catholics get ridiculed by others for our rituals, but we really do have the edge on some groups who have stripped away almost all the signs that we are given to help us make that “leap of faith” in order to be able to say with exuberance, “Christ is Risen! Indeed, He has risen!” May you go from this Vigil Liturgy with a deeper awareness of the power and necessity of renewed conversion that the Risen Christ gives to us. Amen! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

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