Saturday, April 10, 2004

Holy Saturday -- The Easter Vigil

Christus factus est pro nobis oboediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum, et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.

In the primitive Church Holy Saturday was known as Great, or Grand, Saturday, Holy Saturday, the Angelic Night, the Vigil of Easter, etc. It is no longer, like Maundy Thursday, a day of joy, but one of joy and sadness intermingled; it is the close of the season of Lent and penance, and the beginning of paschal time, which is one of rejoicing.

By a noteworthy exception, in the early Church this was the only Saturday on which fasting was permitted (Constit. Apost., VII, 23), and the fast was one of special severity. Dating from the time of St. Irenaeus, an absolute fast from every kind of food was observed for the forty hours preceding the feast of Easter, and although the moment assigned for breaking the fast at dawn on Sunday varied according to time and country, the abstinence from food on Holy Saturday was general.

This is "Great and Holy Saturday" in the eastern Churches. This year Catholic and Orthodox Easters coincide. Alexander Schmemann gives a short description and meditation here on Great and Holy Saturday.

On a personal note, I have to play for the memorial service for the father of a friend of mine this morning. And in the evening a wedding. (Some day I'll learn to check the calendar for holidays before booking engagements.) So if there is time later, there are some interesting Irish customs for this day in Kevin Danaher's "The Year in Ireland" that may show up here. Otherwise, a blessed end of Lent and the Sacred Triduum to all.

Maria Magdalene, et Maria Jacobi, et Salome emerunt aromata, ut venientes ungerent Jesum. Et valde mane una sabbatorum, veniunt ad monumentum, orto jam sole. Et dicebant ad invicem: "Quis revolvet nobis lapidem ab ostio monumenti?" . . . .