Holy Saturday / Easter Vigil
The Bishops of England and Wales have recommended that the Liturgy in all the Easter Services be amended so that the safety of worshippers can be assured. Hopefully next year the Easter Liturgies can take place in full.
The Easter Vigil Mass, which takes place after sundown on Holy Saturday, properly belongs to Easter Sunday, since liturgically, each day begins at sundown on the previous day. (That is why Saturday vigil Masses can fulfil our Sunday Duty.)
In the early Church, Christians gathered on the afternoon of Holy Saturday to pray and to confer the Sacrament of Baptism on catechumens—converts to Christianity who had spent Lent preparing to be received into the Church.
The vigil is divided into four parts:
1) Service of Light, 2) Liturgy of the Word 3) Liturgy of Baptism, 4) Liturgy of the Eucharist
1) Service of Light
The atmosphere in the church is different: the holy water fonts are drained, all the lights
are out, the tabernacle is empty. The service begins outside the church. A new fire is lit and blessed.
A Paschal Candle is prepared with these words while the priest marks the candle:
Christ yesterday and today (vertical arm of the cross)
the Beginning and the End (horizontal arm of the cross)
the Alpha (alpha above the cross)
and the Omega (omega below the cross)
All time belongs to him (numeral 2 in upper left corner of cross)
and all the ages (numeral 1 in upper right corner of cross)
To him be glory and power (numeral 4 in lower left corner)
through every age and for ever. Amen (numeral 0 in lower right corner)
Then the priest may insert five grains of incense into the candle in the form of a cross, meanwhile saying:
1. By his holy
2. and glorious wounds,
3. may Christ the Lord
4. guard us
5. and protect us. Amen.
The priest lights the candle from the new fire, saying:
May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.
The candle is then processed through the church, with the deacon lifting the candle at three different times, singing: The Light of Christ. (or Lumen Christi) and the congregation sings in reply: Thanks be to God (or Deo gratias).
Everyone lights their candle from the Easter candle and continue in procession until the whole church is alight. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World.
2) Liturgy of the Word
During the Easter Vigil, nine readings are provided: seven Old Testament and two New Testament. Not all are required to be read due to time constraints, but at least three Old Testament readings must be read, including Exodus 14. These readings help us meditate on the wonderful works of God for his people since the beginning of time. The readings are:
the story of creation, Gen 1:1-2; 2;
Abraham and Isaac, Gen 22:1-18;
Crossing of the Red Sea, Exodus 14:15–15:1;
Romans 6:3-11; and
Gospel reading Mark 16:1-7.
3) Liturgy of Baptism
During this time the Easter water is blessed, new members are brought into the Church through baptism, and confirmation and part of the liturgy includes the Litany of the Saints. Afterwards the faithful are blessed with water and all renew their baptismal promises.
4) Liturgy of Eucharist
The Mass continues, with the special prayers inserted during the Eucharist Prayer. The whole church is called to join at the sacrificial table that Christ prepared for us through his death and resurrection.
The Mass ends with
V. The Mass is ended, go in peace, alleluia, alleluia.
R. Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia.