Holy Saturday forms a gap between the sadness of the Crucifixion and the joy of Easter. It is a day of holy waiting, which requires a spirit of patience and prayerfulness. Yet, for most of us, we are busy with Easter baking, last minute cleaning, preparing for guests. How can we hold onto the spirit of patience and prayfulness in the midst of such busyness?
At the foot of the Cross & in the Upper Chamber
Stroll over to a crucifix in your home, and hold yourself present with those who stood at the foot of the Cross with Jesus. At the foot of the Cross stood the “three Marys:” The Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the wife of Cleopas – Jesus’ aunt and the Blessed Mother’s sister-in-law. Feel with a mother and/or father’s heart for your only beloved child.
Among the disciples, only John remained; the other 10 scattered in fear, and closed themselves in the upper chamber. Judas Iscariot, hung himself on a tree. So, at the Cross stood kin and a small representation of the Christian community, with most holding themselves at a distance. Journey in your mind to those hovering in the Upper Chamber, and to Judas — eternally alone, hanging from the tree for his betrayal. Place your fears and your betrayals at the foot of the Cross.
All watched and waited, as they grieved and grappled with fears. Unnatural darkness, earthquakes and storms no doubt added to the tense climate. We empathize with Peter, the passionate follower who denied Jesus three times. Our lives are likewise filled with a mixture of faithfulness and cowardice – patient waiting and anxious distractions. Call to mind the ways you have moments of faithfulness and faithlessness. Place all the busy things that stream through your mind upon the Cross.
Yet, we know how the story turns out. And so we wait with joyful expectation. Our preparations will end with the Vigil tonight (or Mass tomorrow), and then our loud Alleluias will join the bells and trumpets. In the meantime, we wait.
The scope of waiting…
The Blessed Mother is our model for patient waiting. When the Angel Gabriel announced that God had chosen her to bear the Savior, she waited. The Holy Spirit rushed through her, yet she had explaining to do with her family and community. The faithful Anna and Joachim, no doubt believed her. But even the good Joseph needed divine intervention to believe her and trust in God. The throngs threatened, directly or on the periphery, with the sentence Mary faced for those who did not believe: death by stoning. She fled to the high country to be with Elizabeth, and she journeyed to Bethlehem with Joseph for the census. Jesus was born amidst strangers.
And so his ministry encompassed kin and strangers, a succession of strangers whom he healed, whom he preached to, many of whom believed, and many who rejected him. The powerful rejected him, and carried out his death sentence. They were not patient to await the work of God in this world.
And so we wait with Mary in faith. And yet we also wait with Mary Magdalene, with the weight of our sins, awaiting remission by Him who paid our debt of sin. We await God’s plan in our life, as we negotiate the small crosses we carry, wrestle with the uncertainty that awaits, and grapple with our own fears. We also get shaken by calamities, natural and spiritual – all those developments that shake the foundation of our faith.
Virtues in waiting
Temperance is the moral virtue which restrains our impulse to concupiscence – to selfishness and to prefer lower-order rather than higher-order goods. It takes courage to resist temptation, and to choose rightly. Through patience we endure hardships, hurts and all the faces of evil, with a spirit of hopefulness, nurtured by faith, embraced within the arms of divine love.
Most of our lives are lived in Holy Saturdays, where sadnesses and expectant joys comingle. The Resurrection we celebrate tonight foreshadows our expectant joy of eternal life. In the meantime we strive to wait patiently, courageously and temperately.
The Easter Vigil – a celebration not to be missed!
The Easter Vigil service offers a larger experience than Easter Sunday. The service has four parts:
1. The Service of Light: The procession begins sometimes outside, others at the back of the Church. A “first fire” is lit amidst the darkness – symbolizing Christ’s light in the darkness following the Crucifixion, as well as at the beginning of Creation. From that holy fire the Pascal Candle is lit and prepared with the signs of new life:
Vertical line of the Cross: Christ yesterday and today.
Horizontal line of the Cross: The beginning and the End
Alpha and Omega: These Greek Symbols are placed above and below the cross.
Then the numerals of this year are placed in each corner of the cross: “2” to the left top, “0” to the right top, “1” to the left bottom, and “1” to the right bottom. The year 2011 is today’s moment in the who course of Salvation History, which the readings document.
Then we sing the Exsultet:
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!
For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!
This is night, when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night, when Jesus broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.
The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.
Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night!
May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. R. Amen.
2. The Liturgy of the Word: Now we take a journey through Salvation History, connecting the Light in Creation to the Son of Man. The nine readings include seven Old Testament readings and two New Testament readings: the story of creation, Gen 1:1-2; 2; 2) Abraham and Isaac, Gen 22:1-18; 3) Crossing of the Red Sea, Exodus 14:15–15:1; 4) Isaiah 54:5-14; 5) Isaiah 55:1-11; 6) Baruch 3:9-15.32–4:4; 7) Ezekiel 36:16-17.18-28; 8, Romans 6:3-11; and 9) Gospel reading Mark 16:1-7.
3. The Liturgy of Baptism: New members are welcomed with Baptism and reception into the Church, and all renew their Baptismal promises and are blessed with Holy Water.
4. The Liturgy of the Eucharist: We receive anew the Body and Blood of the Savior, whose sacrifice paid the debt for our sin. With Jesus in us, we carry his Grace and Love into our lives and throughout the world.
May your Holy Saturday – and your life – be filled with the Grace of patient waiting.
Family Activity: After you’ve wrapped the caterpillars, got the butterflies ready, dyed the eggs, made the pan gardens, baked the resurrection cookies and/or resurrection rolls…
Make your own Pascal Candle. Use a white candle, and roll polymer class into small lines. You can use this to make the lines of the cross, or you can use with red ball headings to create a cross. Next shape the clay strips into the Greek symbols Alpha & Omega (beginning and end). Place the Alpha above the cross and the Omega below the cross.
Then shape the letters for the year 2011, and place them in each corner of the cross on the candle: the “2” in the top left of the cross, the “0” in the top right of the cross, the “1” in the left bottom of the cross, and the other “1” in the right bottom of the cross. (see red image above)Use straight pins to secure them in the candle.
Light this each night at dinner during the 50 days of Easter, and pray a special Easter prayer.