Reflections

HOLY SATURDAY—EASTER VIGIL, APRIL 3, 2021

GOD LIBERATES US—RISEN WITH CHRIST
Structure of the Rite.
• The Easter Vigil rite harmoniously integrates everything in one continuous celebration that follows the normal structure of the Eucharistic celebration.
• The Liturgy of the Light is the opening rite of the Mass.
• The Liturgy of the Word is an expanded version of the usual Liturgy of the Word, so that we can hear about God liberating his people both in the Old and in the New Testaments; here the Gloria comes after the readings from the Old Testament and before those of the New Covenant to mark our entering into the definitive covenant of joy and life.
• After the gospel and the homily comes the Baptismal Liturgy, everywhere with the blessing of water and the renewal of baptismal vows, and in parishes hopefully with an actual baptism. In the case of the baptism of an adult, if the celebrant has also helped in the preparation for baptism of the candidate, the law itself entitles him to confer also the rite of confirmation, without recourse to the bishop.
• Finally comes the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Those participating in it are considered to have complied with the Office of Readings for Easter.
 
General Introduction by the Celebrant or a Commentator
As there is an introduction by the Presiding Celebrant for each part of tonight’s celebration, a suitable lay minister could give the general introduction at the beginning of the service.
 
LIBERATED FOR THE COVENANT OF LOVE
Tonight we celebrate the capital, central event for Christianity: the liberation of God’s people from the slavery of sin, so that they can enter into the new and everlasting covenant whereby God, at his own initiative, binds his people to himself in a deep union of life and love. For God’s people in the Old Testament God saw the hardships they suffered in their slavery in Egypt, liberated them and made with them the covenant through Moses on Mount Sinai. For us Christians, God saw our slavery to sin and our inability to get rid of it. So he sent Jesus, his own Son, to make us free by his death on the cross on Mount Golgotha and by his resurrection. Now we are a free people, capable of love and service and justice. We celebrate this freedom and covenant this very night.
 
PART I: SERVICE OF THE LIGHT
 
Introduction
Dear People of God: At the beginning of the Jewish Easter celebration the youngest in the group asked: “Why is this night so different from all other nights?” and the head of the family answered: Tonight we celebrate because once we were slaves under the Pharaoh of Egypt, but the Lord God has set us free and led his people out of Egypt with joy.” When we Christians ask ourselves tonight: “Why celebrate in the dark of the night?” we answer, “We begin our celebration in the dark because we were once slaves in the darkness of sin, but the Lord Jesus has set us free by dying for us on the cross. But in the night of Easter he rose from the dead and brought us the life of his risen life. There he made us God’s new chosen people and became our light to lead us to the Promised Land.” This is why we light the fire and the Easter candle as we sing our praise and thanks to God.
Then follow the blessing of the fire, the lighting of the Easter candle, the procession into the church and the Exsultet.
 
PART II. THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
Introduction
We listen now to the Word of God with open ears and hearts and with great joy. God’s Word tonight speaks of the liberation of the people of God, old and new, and therefore how we too have been liberated by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Note. The seven Old Testament readings may be reduced to three. Exodus 14, on the Passover from Israel to the Promised Land, should always be among those selected.
 
First Reading (Gen 1:1-2, 2:2): The Beautiful Poem of Creation
In this first act of salvation, God created order out of chaos and light out of darkness. He created man and woman in his own image and entrusted the earth and its resources to them to develop.
 
Holy Saturday
At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter
1 Reading: Genesis 1:1—2:2
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day. Then God said, “Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other.” And so it happened: God made the dome, and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it. God called the dome “the sky.” Evening came, and morning followed—the second day. Then God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear.” And so it happened: the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, and the dry land appeared. God called the dry land “the earth,” and the basin of the water he called “the sea.” God saw how good it was. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it.” And so it happened: the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. God saw how good it was. Evening came, and morning followed—the third day. Then God said: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.” And so it happened: God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; and he made the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw how good it was. Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day. Then God said, “Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.” And so it happened: God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying, “Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth.” Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.” And so it happened: God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. God saw how good it was. Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.” God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” God also said: “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.” And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.
 
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35
R. (30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak. R.
 
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
with the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood. R.
 
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song. R.
 
You water the mountains from your palace;
the earth is replete with the fruit of your works.
You raise grass for the cattle,
and vegetation for man’s use,
Producing bread from the earth. R.
 
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—the earth is full of your creatures.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! R.
 
2 Reading: Genesis 22:1-18;
God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am, ” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him his son Isaac and two of his servants as well, and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust, set out for the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar. Then he said to his servants: “Both of you stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over yonder. We will worship and then come back to you.” Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham: “Father!” Isaac said. “Yes, son, ” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?” “Son,” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.” Then the two continued going forward. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son. Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh; hence people now say, “On the mountain the LORD will see.” Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing all this because you obeyed my command.”
 
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11
R. (1) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
 
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. R.
 
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption. R.
 
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever. R.
 
Reading 3: Exodus 14:15—15:1
The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea, split the sea in two, that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land. But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate that they will go in after them. Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots and charioteers. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I receive glory through Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers.” The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp, now moved and went around behind them. The column of cloud also, leaving the front, took up its place behind them, so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians and that of Israel. But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed without the rival camps coming any closer together all night long. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left. The Egyptians followed in pursuit; all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them right into the midst of the sea. In the night watch just before dawn the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic; and he so clogged their chariot wheels that they could hardly drive. With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel, because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians. Then the LORD told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and their charioteers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth. The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea, when the LORD hurled them into its midst. As the water flowed back, it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army which had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not a single one of them escaped. But the Israelites had marched on dry land through the midst of the sea, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day from the power of the Egyptians. When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore and beheld the great power that the LORD had shown against the Egyptians, they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses. Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
 
Etc……
 
Epistle: Romans 6:3-11
Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
 
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.” R.
 
The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD. R.
 
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes. R.
 
Gospel: The Lord Is Risen!
To their surprise, the women do not find the body of Jesus in the tomb, for he is risen. They have to announce this good news to the apostles. It is also our Good News.
 
Gospel: Mark 16:1-7
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'”
 
(See the Commentary at the end.)
 
PART III. THE LITURGY OF BAPTISM
Note. If the baptismal font is to be blessed, whether there are actual baptisms or not, the Litany of the Saints is sung or prayed. If the font is not to be blessed, there is a blessing of holy water, followed by the renewal of baptismal vows.
 
Introduction
Renewal of Baptismal Vows
Brothers and sisters in Christ in this beautiful night we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By dying he destroyed death for us, by rising he has affirmed our life. In baptism we have died with him to sin but we have not yet won all our struggles against evil and God’s life in us has not yet come to full bloom. This is why the Church invites us again to reject what is against the covenant of love and to promise, as we did in baptism, to live according to its law of service and goodness. We renew our baptismal promises. And so:
Do you reject…
Do you believe…
 
Intercessions
Where the Litany of the Saints has been used at baptism and/or the blessing of the font, it serves as General Intercessions. Otherwise:
Let us pray to God our Father, who has raised Jesus from the dead, and let us say:
R/ Lord raise us up with your Son.
 
– For those who have been baptized tonight and for all Christians, that they may remain faithful to their baptismal promises in all circumstances of life, let us pray:
R/ Lord, raise us up with your Son.
– For all who suffer and for the dying that their hope and strength may be Jesus, who, through and beyond death, has built a road to new life, let us pray:
R/ Lord, raise us up with your Son.
– For all those whose experiences have discouraged or disillusioned them in life, that they may not remain obsessed by the past but look forward to the future with its new prospects and opportunities, let us pray:
R/ Lord, raise us up with your Son.
– For all those who have committed themselves to serve the needs of others, that they may keep faith in a better world in which peace and justice are not empty words, let us pray:
R/ Lord, raise us up with your Son.
– For all of us gathered here in the joy of Easter, that we may be happy and jovial people who know that God loves us with an enduring love and that we may radiate this love on one another, let us pray:
R/ Lord, raise us up with your Son.
 
Our God and Father, you call us your sons and daughters and that is what we really are. Make us gratefully cooperate with you in the works of your creating and serving love and to look forward in hope to the happiness without end promised us in Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.
 
Prayer Over the Gifts
Lord, God of life,
you gather us around this table
to celebrate the Easter meal
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept with this bread and this wine
the prayers and offerings of your people.
Make our faith firm,
that your Son may continue
to live in us and to lead us to you,
our living and loving God for ever. R/ Amen.
 
Introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer
Let our joy brim over in this Eucharist as we give thanks to the Father for having saved us by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
 
Invitation to the Our Father
Sons and daughters of the Father through baptism,
let the joy of the Spirit cry out in us
in Jesus’ own words. R/ Our Father…
 
Invitation to Communion
This is our risen Lord, who said
and says again to us this night:
“I am the bread of life.
Those who eat my flesh and drink by blood
have eternal life and I live in them.”
With this faith, come to the table of the Lord. R/ Lord, I am not worthy…
 
Prayer after Communion
Lord God, our Father,
with joy we have shared
in the Easter meal of your Son.
Through his body and blood you have assured us
that we are destined for eternal life
and that this life is already stirring in us.
Keep filling us with the Spirit of your love,
that we may live in the joy of your one people,
one in heart and mind,
and living for one another and for you,
our God for ever and ever. R/ Amen.
 
Blessing
What an experience of joy
if we have really relived tonight
what we have become through Jesus’ resurrection.
May we keep living in the hope and happiness
of a people that is risen above sin and evil
and live for all that is good and beautiful.
May the almighty and loving God bless you all:
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
 
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
R/ Thanks be to God.
 
Commentary
The Liturgy of the Church wanted to make this day a time of silence, of meditation, of welcoming into our hearts the mystery of Jesus who died and who would rise again. Hence there is no celebration of the Eucharist today nor have we got the Gospel for our reflection! What we have is the Easter Vigil – which is already part of the celebration of Easter and we still have time to reflect on the Easter
The term ‘vigil’ refers to waiting… in anticipation of something to happen… waiting for the birth of a child; keeping watch of a dear one who is dying. But… Waiting is the last thing we want to talk about. We are living in a world of instant coffee and instant noodles… We grow impatient even when the internet signals are weak! Our age is characterized by impatience. We rush about our lives refusing to ever wait for things.
Holy Saturday teaches us of the value of patience and waiting. Imagine that Sabbath morning after a brutal killing during the Passover in Jerusalem. It appeared like a lost battle? There was nothing to hope for and no one to wait for – as far as the disciples are concerned.
In spite of this hopelessness, there was someone who anticipated something big to happen after the death of Jesus – that was the Blessed Mother. She must have been sure that life of the Son of God would not end on the Cross nor would it disappear in a tomb. She knew for sure that there would be an Easter and all she had to do was to patiently wait. This one day could be the longest day in the life of Mary – for she is waiting. We don’t see her running to the tomb with rest of the women on the Easter Morning.
On the Holy Saturday, the Blessed Mother brings us the most important message for us: Be patient, It is just the beginning and not the end. How fast do we plunge into anxiety and despair when tragedies strike us? When faced with failures in life or rejection from family and people whom we considered most important to us? We look for immediate answers for our prayers and demand instant results. Remember the famous prayer: “Lord give me patience and give it to me right now!”
Let us be patient, the Lord hasn’t finished with us yet!

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