Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the third day of the Easter Triduum. The celebration begins after the sun has set. We wait in hope, we were sad that Jesus died but we know that on that most glorious Easter morning Jesus rose. The time of sadness is over. Jesus is Alive!

The night vigil of Easter signifies Jesus’ passage from the dead to the living. The celebrations begin in darkness. The priest, the ministers and acolytes gather around the fire outside. Father begins by blessing the fire. He then traces a cross on the Easter Candle and places five pieces of incense on the cross. The Easter Candle is then lit. The priest raises the Easter Candle high and sings “Christ our Light” we the congregation respond singing “ Thanks be to God.” This is done three times as he makes his way to the altar. After the third singing of this proclamation our candles are lit. The priest then leads us in the singing of the Easter Proclamation. This is a joyful singing of all God has done from us.

We then move into the Liturgy of the Word. There are many readings and Psalms tonight. We hear the story of Creation, the story of Abraham and his son Isaac, the story of how God led the Jewish people out of slavery from Egypt and a couple more stories from the Old Testament. When the seven readings from the Old Testament have been read, the altar candles are lit from the Easter Candle and placed on the altar. The priest then leads us in the singing of the Gloria. The church bells are rung in all their glory while we sing the Gloria. We then hear the Epistle, a reading from the New Testament. We then sing the Solemn Alleluia before the Gospel. The priest then gives us his Easter homily. This Vigil is long but be patient and attentive to everything that is said and done.

After the homily, if there are persons to be baptized, they come and kneel around the baptismal font while the Litany of the Saints is sung. We ask the Saints to pray for them and to pray for us. The priest then blesses the Baptismal Water, the Easter Candle is lowered into the water while Father prays for the Holy Spirit to bless the water. Father turns to the Catechumens, the persons to be baptized, and asks them if they reject sin, satan and the lies of satan. They respond “Yes I do.” They are then asked if they believe in God and all the teachings of our Catholic Church and respond “Yes I do believe.” Father then baptizes them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is the very same thing that was done when we were baptized. They newly baptized go and get changed into their white garments. They also wear a white gown over their white clothing. When they enter the church, we all stand and applaud and welcome them. We are very happy that they have become members of the Catholic Church! They are given their lighted Baptism candles and Father leads us in the renewal of our Baptismal Promises. The new members of our Church come around and light our candles before we renew our Baptismal Promises. Father then asks us the same questions he asked the Catechumens. We answer and profess our faith and belief in the Catholic Church and all the teachings of the Church. Father with the help of the ministers moves throughout the church and sprinkles and blesses us with the Holy Water from the Baptismal Font. When we feel the sprinkle of Holy Water on us we make the Sign of the Cross.

Sometimes people who belonged to other Christian religions want to become Catholic. Father leads them in professing their belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Sacrament of Confirmation is celebrated. Father prays for them to be filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit. He anoints their forehead with Chrism and gives them the sign of peace, a good handshake or a hug or whatever is appropriate. We then move into the celebration of the Eucharist. Those who were baptized and persons received into our Church receive their First Holy Communion.

At the end of the celebration we are given a special Easter blessing. We respond saying “Thanks be to God. Alleluia Alleluia” The procession makes their way out of the church while the Recessional hymn is sung while the Church bells are rung. Everyone is so happy and joyful. Jesus is ALIVE!

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