Saturday, April 23, 2011

Triduum: Holy Saturday

The Holy Saturday celebration might be called a sort of “crowning jewel” of the Liturgical Season. Filled with multiple symbols and significance, this night stands out among other Masses as a real point of inspiration (when it is celebrated faithfully and with reverence).

Having already witnessed the Crucifixion on Good Friday and now waiting in anticipation at the tomb, we begin Mass outside (whenever possible) around a fire, in the dark of the evening. The fire is blessed, and a large candle (the Paschal Candle or Easter Candle) is also blessed and lit from the fire. The flame of the Paschal Candle represents Christ “the Light of the World.” The congregation lights smaller candles from the larger Paschal Candle as we all receive our light from Christ.

We process into a darkened church which is soon aglow in the light of the many small candles, as we pass flames from one to another, until the whole congregation is assembled. Then the proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection is read or sung and the lights of the church are turned on. Then the Mass continues.

Among some of the other features of Holy Saturday, those seeking full communion with the Church are baptized and Confirmed and receive their first Communion. After completing many weeks of training in the faith, Holy Saturday is the traditional day of accepting these new Catholics into the fold. For this purpose, holy water is blessed and the chrism (holy oil used for anointing), which was only recently consecrated at the beginning of Holy Week, is used in the ceremony.

Also, the “Alleluia” is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent. Since Lent is a time of penance, a somber reflective season, the grand Alleluia, which is usually sung before the Gospel, has been omitted for forty days. The Alleluia makes a glorious return on Easter Saturday evening. And with that Alleluia, the Gospel is proclaimed that Jesus has risen, and the long wait of Lent is over.

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I would strongly urge anyone who is able to participate in all three days of the Triduum if at all possible. It encapsulates the entire Passion of Christ and plays it out in real-time before our eyes in a liturgical setting. In the Triduum the true meaning of Easter is celebrated within the Universal Church, as the whole Body of Christ’s believers await the risen Christ.

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