Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday)
The Resurrection of Jesus
There was this story about the conversation between a Christian missionary and a Muslim illustrates a great point. The Mohammedan wanted to impress the missionary with what he considered to be the superiority of Islam. So he said, “When we go to Mecca, we at least find a coffin, but when you Christians go to Jerusalem, your Mecca, you find nothing but an empty grave.” To this the believer replied, “That is just the difference, Mohammed is dead and in his coffin. And all other systems of religion and philosophy are in their coffins. But Christ is Risen and all power in heaven and on earth is given to Him! He is alive forevermore!
Holy Saturday is a day without any official liturgy intended for this day alone. The administration of sacraments today is strictly limited. Holy Eucharist is not celebrated during Holy Saturday. It is the only day of the year that no Mass is celebrated. Weddings and funeral masses are forbidden while the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion are given only as a viatum to a dying person. Altars are stripped bare or decorated in violet, tabernacles lie open and empty. The whole Church is one with Christ in His death.
Christina I. Hermoso, in her column in a newspaper, said that the Church urges us to pray and reflect on the Apostles’ Creed, particularly the lines, “He descended unto the dead” which signifies Jesus’ journey into the world of darkness, sin and death, and “He ascended into heaven” which signifies Jesus’ triumph over death as shown by His resurrection and the restoration of the Light of the world.
Holy Saturday is a day of sadness and joy because, as Fr. Charles Scanlon, S.V.D., an American priest who taught and preached in the Philippines for decades before he returned to the USA, explained that the sadness of Holy Saturday “is reliving the suffering of Jesus in the hands of His tormentors from His arrest, trial, being crowned with thorns and finally being nailed to His Cross, and joy in anticipation while awaiting the dawn of His Resurrection.”
But after sunset, Easter Vigil services begin with the blessing of a fire by a priest outside the church. This marks the beginning of the observance of the Easter Vigil, the official start of the joyful celebration of Easter. Easter Vigil is the Mother of all vigils because it is a time for joy and great expectation as we await in joyful anticipation the resurrection of Jesus. This fire is called the “Service of the Light.” It is because the light of the fire is held as a symbol of the radiance of the Risen Christ. This light dispels the darkness done by our sins and the crucifixion of Christ to redeem the world.
Somebody said that tonight’s Easter Vigil liturgy in majestic scriptural proclamations formally reviews God’s blessing of renewal: From the blessings of creation, to the blessings of salvation history, to the blessing of Jesus. Then with the entire assembly and with the soon to be initiated new members – we are asked to reaffirm our faith publicly: “Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?” It is by responding “We do!” that we prove that we are ready to celebrate the event precipitating newness of life for ourselves and for our planet, the Resurrection.