Today is Holy Saturday. This morning the children are invited to gather in the Hine Room, at 10am, for the Easter workshop. They will create this year’s Easter Garden, decorate cookies and produce some craft items. The older members of the congregation will be in church, cleaning and decorating, preparing flowers and generally getting the church ready for the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. The priests will be in the confessional, from 9am until noon, for the usual steady stream of penitents.
This evening, at 8pm, we hold the Easter Vigil. The jewel in the crown of the liturgical year and the third and final act of the Sacred Triduum. We listen to scriptural accounts of how God made himself present to mankind from creation to the resurrection. We proclaim with fire, water and song that Christ has risen. Great rejoicing accompanies this night. The Paschal Vigil comprises four main parts:
The Service of Light
The liturgy begins outside church. The Paschal candle is prepared and lit from a fire- representing Christ the light of the world rising from the darkness. It is then processed into church and candles, held by the faithful, are gradually lit as a sign of the good news of the resurrection flowing from Christ to his people. Once in church the candle is incensed and the priest sings the ‘Exultet’ – an ancient song proclaiming the resurrection.
In candlelight seven readings, interspersed with psalms and collects, recall the great interventions of God in history, from creation to the redemption of Israel from Egypt. After this recollection, that reminds us that God planned for our salvation from the dawn of time, the church is lit, bells ring out and we sing the Gloria with exultation!
The baptismal rite
Baptism is a resurrection rite and throughout the year every newly baptised person receives a candle lit from the Paschal candle. Even if there are no Easter baptisms, the waters of the font are blessed and the faithful renew their baptismal promises and are sprinkled with water from the font, the fountain of life, in recognition that the eternal promise of baptism, that we will live forever with Christ, was enabled by his resurrection.
The Liturgy of the Sacrament
The natural and proper climax of the whole Easter liturgy is the Mass in which we are sacramentally united with our risen Lord. All Catholics should be present at Mass on Easter day which, alongside Christmas, is the most significant date in the Christian year. The feast has now begun!