Saturday, March 26, 2016

Awaiting the Resurrection: Holy Saturday

First, let me say that contrary to many contemporary opinions the old Holy Saturday liturgy was not at the wrong time. It was at an unusal time, morning, rather than after the canonical hour of None, around 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm, but it was never a night time liturgy. Also, it is not Easter's Mass done the day before, nor is it a midnight Mass, as at Christmas. It is a Mass and liturgy meant to help us anticipate the Resurrection. Let us see what the Church has given us.

The liturgy begins after None, the last "little hour" of the afternoon. The deacon and subdeacon still wear the folded chasubles, their penitential vestments. The clergy and laity gather outside the church, where, hopefully, someone has lit a fire. The priest, vested in violet, sings three luminously themed prayers: the first referring to the "brightness of Your Son," the second calling God the "Creator of all lights," and the third an actual blessing. This is very reminiscent of the Eastern blessing at the end of Divine Liturgy, which quotes St. James in calling God the "Father of Lights," of all that is perfect, luminous, and good.

A server ignites coals and the priest imposes and blesses incense. He sparges the Holy Fire with blessed water and then incenses it. He also blesses five grains of incense which he be inserted into the Pascal Candle, representing the light of Christ throughout Easter season, inside the church.

The deacon then changes his penitential folded chasuble for a white dalmatic and maniple. He takes a large, triple-branched candle and, lighting a new wick from the Holy Fire, enters the church exclaiming Lumen Christi—"The Light of Christ." This happens twice more until we are in the church proper.

A deacon with the triple-candle preparing to enter the church.

The deacon then petitions the priest for a blessing, approaches the Paschal Candle, which is off to the Gospel side of the altar, and sings the Exultet, a long blessing. The Exultet is rich with imagery of light in the night and the deliverance from Egypt. This day is the deliverance from our spiritual Egypt: Sin and Death. Part way through, the deacon inserts the five grains of incense, calling them an "evening sacrifice," and lights the Paschal Candle. The video to the left is a singing of the Exultet at St. Peter's Basilica two years ago. I find the continued use of the prayer in the newer rites odd, given that none of the actions mentioned in the text are performed, nor is the intention any longer to bless! The prayer concludes with a petition for the Pope and the, no longer extant, Holy Roman Emperor. The lights of the church go on at the words Vere beata nox—"Oh, truly blessed night!" In the middle ages, when this ceremony took place in day light, the windows of the church would be covered in dark cloth, which would be removed at those words, washing the church in God's light after a spiritual slumber.

The deacon returns to his penitential folded-chasuble and, along with the priest and subdeacon, read twelve prophecies, which are chanted by lectors in the middle of the choir. The prophecies together form the story of salvation, both in anticipation and in prediction of Christ:
  1. Genesis 1:1-31, 2:1-2: The creation of the world by God, the ruler of all things. He sees that it is good.
  2. Genesis chapters 5-8: The Great Flood and God's commissioning of Noah to build an ark. The ark is a foreshadowing of the Church, which God gives us to protect us from the Flood of Sin.
  3. Genesis 22:1-9: Abram is about to offer his son, Isaac, but an angel intervenes. For his love of God, the Lord makes a covenant with him and renames the man Abraham.
  4. Exodus 14:24-15:1: God lets the Israelites pass through Egypt unto freedom through the Red Sea, which drowns the pursuing forces of the Pharoah. Baptism will be our watery means of passing unto freedom.
  5. Isaiah 54:17, 55:1-11: God has heard the cry of His people and will honor the promises to David.
  6. Baruch 3:9-38: God has absolute knowledge and dominion over His creation.
  7. Ezekiel 37:1-14: The bones of the fallen will rise again under the spirit of the Lord.
  8. Isaiah 4:1-6: The Lord will wash away the "filth of Jerusalem" and build a covenant.
  9. Exodus 12:1-11: God prescribes the Passover sacrifice of a lamb to the Jews, which will deliver them from God's plague over the first-borns of Egypt. They will be free. Christ is the perfect, spotless Lamb, the perfect sacrifice. He will intercede for us before the Father.
  10. Jonah 3:1-10: The prophet Jonah convinces the city of Nineveh to repent of their sins and do penance, averting their impending destruction. Penance is necessary to pay the debt of sin, not just to be forgiven.
  11. Deuteronomy 31:22-30: Moses provides for his death and the continuation of the Israelites into the promised land. This succession of leaders will continue until Christ.
  12. Daniel 3:1-24: King Nabuchodonosor attempts to kill three Jewish children for not worshiping his idols. They are thrown into a fire, but angels guard them.
In between these readings are sung various prayers and sung psalms. A procession forms and heads to the baptismal font. The priest blesses the empty font and the water in it by plunging the Paschal Candle three times. He sprinkles water towards the four points of the compass and then the faithful with Holy Water from the font, and then infuses Holy Oils into it. He proceeds to baptize and confirm any converts present in the normal manner. The procession then returns to the altar as the choir sings the Litany of Saints, doubling the invocations and answers (ex: choir: Pater de caelis, Deus, Miserere nobis people: Pater de caelis, Deus, Miserere nobis). If there is no font, everything until the Litany is excluded.

Everyone kneels for the duration of the Litany, which takes the place of the Introit of the Mass. The intention of the Litany is mainly to pray for converts, but also for the Church as a whole, as She enters the Paschal mystery. The priest, deacon, and subdeacon remove their outer vestments and prostrate themselves.

Towards the end of the Litany the priest and his ministers rise and head to the sacristy to vest in white vestments for Mass. Servers prepare the altar with the missal and put on the best, most festive frontal.

The altar candles are lit from the Paschal Candle. The ministers of Mass return and sing a normal solemn high Mass. The Gloria is the lovely Lux et Origo setting. The Epistle is from St. Paul's letter to the Colassians, in which the Apostles tells us that if we are dead with Christ, Christ will rise and us with Him.

The priest sings Alleluia for the first time in two months. Absorbed in joy, he sings it three times, each higher and each repeated by the choir. The Gospel, taken from St. Matthew's account of the myrrh-bearing women finding the empty tomb, is accented by the fact that candles are not carried in the procession, emphasizing that the Resurrection has not yet happened for us, but that we are anticipating it. All of this subtlety is indicative of the restraint of the old Roman rite.

The celebrant reads the Gospel before the deacon sings it.

As this is a vigil, the Creed is not sung. There is no verse or chant prescribed for the offertory, so the organ  is played or Latin hymns are sung.

The preface is of Easter. During the Canon of the Mass, the Communicantes prayer is unique: "Communicating, and keeping this most holy night of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh; and also reverencing the memory...." The Pax is not given and the Agnus Dei is omitted. This may be for two reasons: (1) the Lamb is not yet risen and with us or (2) this liturgy is so old that it pre-dates the eighth century introduction of the Agnus Dei

After communion and the cleansing of the vessels, a short Holy Saturday Vespers is sung rather than a communion chant. It is psalm 116, surrounded by a triple Alleluia. The priest begins the antiphon on the Mangificat: Vespere autem sabati....  During the Magnificat everyone is incensed as usual. The priest sings the post-communion prayer, which I have given below:
Pour forth, O Lord, we beseech thee, the Spirit of thy love into our hearts, and by thy mercy make all them to be of one mind to whom Thou hast given to eat of thy mystic Passover. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. Amen.

The dismissal is Ite, missa est, alleluia! Alleluia. The Deo gratias response is also given a double alleluia. The priest says the Placeat, gives the blessing, and recites the Last Gospel as normal. It is traditional to end the liturgy with the Regina Coeli.
Queen of Heaven, rejoice! Alleluia!
For He Who you did merit to bear, Alleluia!
Has risen as He said, Alleluia!
Pray for us to God, Alleluia! 
These rites would end about four hours after they started. The main point of celebrating this liturgy early was so that Paschal Mattins and Lauds could start at a reasonable time. The twentieth century de-emphasis of the Divine Office saddens me. Paschal Mattins and Lauds are the most important liturgical event of the entire week, more so than any Mass or office. In these offices we formally begin the celebration of the Resurrection. In Eastern Churches the people wander the church looking for Christ, but not finding Him! He is risen! They then sing Mattins and Lauds at midnight, followed by Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is of Easter Sunday, it is not a vigil nor is it a midnight Mass, as we have on Christmas. The reformers lost this critical difference and canned the most important office of the year in the process.

In the West there would be a Resurrection ceremony, which would find the sepulcher created on Good Friday empty, the crucifix would be adored again as on Good Friday, and Mattins and Lauds would be sung. Mattins has one nocturn, with lesson from a sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great, in which the saintly pontiff says we, the Church, must come to Christ's tomb bearing gifts like the women if we are to be surprised and rejoice. The Te Deum is sung de tempore for the first time in two months. At Lauds, the first antiphon declares that an angel descended from heaven to roll back the stone. The antiphons for this Lauds are among the most beautiful of the year. There is no hymn at Mattins or Lauds. The dismissal has a double Alleluia, as at Mass. The office ends with the Regina Coeli again. Easter has begun at this point.


  1. Here is how it goes form the Gelasian sacramentary.

    "First, in the middle of 8th hour, they proceed to the church and enter the sacristy and the don vestments as is the custom. And the clergy begins the litany, and the priest proceeds from the sacristy with the holy orders. They go before the altar and stand there with inclined heads until "Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, miser.". Then the priest standing up from prayer goes behind the altar to sit at his seat. Then the archdeacon comes before the altar, accepts of the light which was hidden at the 6th feria, makes a cross on the candle (cereus) and lights it, and the benediction of the candle is completed by him."

    Then "Deus mundi conditor", a very long benediction prayer is prayed. Then "Veniat ergo, omnipotens Deus, super hunc incensum" is prayed which is in the old missal. Now, in the old missal it is supposed to be prayed over 5 grains of incense. In the old Missal it has the short ending, per Christum, but in the sacramentary it is the long one. But in the sacramentary it says only "super incensum". We know that incensum can mean incense or fire, and that it is known that by "incensum" in the Exultet the candle is meant. So here it can mean the candle or the incense to be used that night at Mass (my conjecture) since nothing indicates that the candle was pierced with 5 grains of incense. Iconography too is devoid of incense grains.

    Then the 11 prophecies are read with their consecutive collects.
    First three readings are the same - Creation, Abraham, Noah, but the collects are different.
    The 4 and 5th readings are the same and have the same collect.
    There is no Baruch as the 6th reading but instead the next, 7th one from the Missal is taken and has the same collect as the 7th one in the Missal.
    The 7/8th (x/y --> x=sacramentary, y=missal) reading differs in collect.
    The 8/9th reading differs in collect. Actually 8th sacramentary collect is 10th missal collect, just few words differ like "unum esse fecisti" as opposed to "adunasti".
    9th from the sacramentary is the Deutoronomy with canticle and has the same collect as 11th from the missal (also Deutoronomy with canticle).
    10th from the sacramentary is the same as 12th from the missal and the collects are the same.
    11th from the sacramentary is 41st Psalm - Sicut cervus.

    To be continued.

    1. The Sicut cervus has it's own collect which is basically the one from the tract Sicut cervus from the Missal.

      Then the rubrics say this.
      "Then they proceed to the font with litanies for the baptized. Baptism being finished, the bishop signs the infants and places the Chrism on their foreheads, while they receive the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. After that the priest returns with all Orders to the sacristy, and not long after that they begin the third litany, and they proceed to the vigil Masses as the star appears in the sky. And they temper it so that the litanies be in the number of the trinity.

      Then they descend to the fonts with the litany."

      Then the benedictio fontis is with the prayer "adesto" which is also in the missal. The consecration is done with the prayer which is the same as the preface prayer in the missal, but it isn't in the form of the preface. Namely "qui invisibili potentia tua". He signs the water at "Unde benedico te".
      Then there says "Hic sensum mutabis". Dunno what that means.
      Then there is the "Haec nobis praecepta" as in the missal, but without the accompanying gestures.
      Then "Descendat in plenitudinem" without gestures with conclusion "Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium Tuum: qui venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos et saeculum per ignem.

      "Then, when the font has been blessed, he baptizes all of them in their order, under these interrogations.
      Do you believe in God creator of heaven and earth? I do.
      Do you believe in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord, who was born and who suffered? I do.
      Do you believe in Holy Spirit, Holy Church, remission of sins and resurrection of flesh? I do.

      Then you immerse them three times in water at each time (per singulas vices).

      To be continued tomorrow when i get back from the vigil and get some sleep.

    2. "After that, when the infant is pulled out from the font, it is signed by the priest on the head with the Chrism by these words.

      "Deus, omnipotens Pater Domini nostri Iesu Christi, qui te regeneravit de aqua et Spiritu Sancto, quique dedit tibi remissionem omniom peccatorum: ipse te linit Chrisma salutis in Christo Iesu Domino nostro in vitam aeternam. Amen."

      Then the bishop gives them the sevenfold Spirit. In signing he imposes his hand saying thus: "Deus Omnipotens, Pater Domini nostri Iesu Christi, qui regenerasti famulos tuos ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto; quique dedisti eis remissionem omnium peccatorum: Tu Domine, inmitte in eos Spiritum Sanctum suum Paraclitum: et da eis Spiritum Sapientiae, et Intellectus, Spiritum Consilii et Fortitudinis, Spiritum Scientiae et Pietatis. Adimple eos Spiritu Timoris Dei in nomine Domini nostri Iesu Christi, cum quo vivis et regnas Deus semper cum Spiritu Sancto, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen."

      Then he signs them on the head saying: "Signum Christi in vitam aeternam. Amen.
      Pax tecum.
      Et cum spiritu tuo.
      Then with litany he ascends to his seat and says Gloria in excelsis Deo."

      The Mass propers.
      There are two collects which aren't separated by "item alia". The second one is the same as in the Missal, and the first one differs slightly. I will abreviate the words that are the same.
      -Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui hanc sac. noc. per universa mundi spatia gl. Dom. Res. inl., cons. in nov. fam. tuae prog. sanctificationis spir. quem ded., ut corp. et ment. ren., puram tibi animam et purum pectus semper exhibeant. Per etc.

      There are two secrets offered. The second one is the same as in the Missal. Here's the first one.
      -Suscipe, quaesumus Domine, et plebis tuae et tuorum Hostias renatorum: ut et confessione tui nominis, et Baptismate renovati, sempiternam beatitudinem consequantur. Per etc.
      Item alia ...

      There are two prefaces. The second one is almost the same as the one in the Missal, but the ending is thus.
      -Propterea profusis paschalibus gaudiis totus in orbe terrarum mundus exultat. Sed et supernae Virtutes atque Angelicae concinunt Potestates hymnum gloriae tuae, sine fine dicentes.

      The first one goes like this.
      -...Aequum et salutare. Adest enim nobis optatissimum tempus; et desiderate noctis lumen advenit. Quid enim maius vel melius inveniri poterit, quam Domini resurgentis predicare virtutem? Hic namque inferorum claustra disrumpens, clarissima nobis hodie suae Resurrectionis vecilla suscepit; atque hominem, remeans invidia inimici dejectum mirantibus intulit astris. O noctis istius mystica et veneranda commercia! O sanctae matris Ecclesiae pia sempiterna beneficia! Non bult habere, quod perimat; sed cupit invenire quod redimat. Exultavit Maria in sacratissimo puerperio. Exultat Ecclesia in filiorum suorum generationis specie. Sic fons ille beatus, qui Dmonico latere circumfulsit, moles excepit vitiorum: ut his sacris Altaribus vitales escas perpetua vita conferat renatorum: Et ideo cum Angelis.

      Communicantes is the same. Hanc igitur has an addition "ut invenires eos in Christo Iesu Domino nostro, quaesumus, Domine placatus accipias. Pro quibus maiestati tuae supplices fundimus preces: ut nomina eorum ascribi iubeas in libro viventium."

      Sacramentary offers two postcommunions and both are different.
      -Praesta quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut divino munere satiati, et sacis mysteriis innovemur et moribus.
      Item alia.
      -Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut Paschalis perceptio Sacramenti continuata in nostris mentibus persevert. Per.

      There you go.

    3. And also, the title of the Mass is: "orationes et preces ad Missam in nocte".

  2. Btw. why are the Matins and Lauds of Dominica Resurrectionis so important? Matins have only one nocturn, no hymn. Ladus also lack the hymn. Is the truncation the cause of importance or are there some special rites?

    1. Do you have access to Dom Gueranger's ? I recommend perusing his writeup on Paschal Mattins & Lauds. If not, I am happy to summarize.

      Paschal Mattins & Lauds is also when the elevation service would have taken place (the corollary of yesterday's deposition service). Liturgically, Mattins is when the Resurrection actually happens.

    2. Sorry, meant Dom Gueranger's Liturgical Year

  3. I attended a Easter Vigil in a local parish. The mass was in the Novos Ordo and it was shameful it lacked the sanctity and respect that a mass should have. Iam 17 years old and iam tired of the abuses. The mass that I went to in the novus Ordo at first was the same as a usual novus Ordo mass until the priest started to say his sermon he didn't head to the pulpit but instead headed to the middle aisle and started to say his sermon than at the end he started to yell Christ is risen and other things and some of the lay people started to yell amen and alleluia I respectfully got up and left the church iam wondering if that was a right move or if it was disrespectful

    1. Do you have any other church to go to, to celebrate the Resurrection?


    That's how we were for the Easter Vigil. I'm the second one from right.
    Today i sang gregorian Alleluia, Pascha nostrum and Victimae Paschali but in Croatian.
    Doing as much as i can.


    1. Appareled alb and not a stitch of lace to be seen! You look very happy.

      Christ is Risen!

    2. Thank you for all those references. It will take a while to read through and process.... :-/

    3. No lace indeed!
      And the amices are the right way :D
      As for reading. Take your time. I'm happy to make a contribution. :)

  5. 2016 Procession to the Font at Mater Ecclesiae Church:

  6. Are there any possibilities to restore the organic unity between the Mass and the Divine Office?