By Hugh McNichol
Holy Saturday is the period of Holy Week when Catholics remember Jesus' entombment. It is a preparation day. Today is a day of quiet and prayerful reflection on the true gravity of the crucifixion and Jesus' redemptive sacrifice. Throughout the world our Churches are empty of the Blessed Sacrament and quiet in anticipation of Easter's triumph over darkness and evil, sin and death.
The quietness of the day permits us to ponder the implications of physical death and how each of us in life and death, affects others. The day before Easter also permits the Elect and the Catechumens a period of solitude and reflection as they prepare to participate in a most meaningful manner in the Sacraments of Initiation. After the frantic activities of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday & Good Friday…Holy Saturday is a pregnant pause before the realization of the resurrection is realized on Easter Sunday morning.
This period should be prayerful and quiet, as well as contemplative of the chronological and historical events that we call the Passion. This day should also provide anticipatory happiness as we prepare to celebrate the New Passover. Holy Saturday permits us to deeply saturate our parched theological spirits in images of the waters of Baptism, and symbols of restored life. This evening Mother Church will initiate a new fire and the Paschal Candle will stand in our churches providing radiant light and reminding us of Jesus' Easter triumph. We will profess our faith in the Creed, along with our newly initiated brothers and sisters. We will partake in the Eucharistic sacrifice, now the unbloody reenactment of Calvary.
In our Churches, new water will be blessed and there will be a sprinkling over all of us to recount our sacramental incorporation through the living waters of baptism, the warming power of the Holy Spirit in confirmation and the nourishment provided through our Eucharist, Jesus, the Bread of Life. It is a good and appropriate thing that this Holy Saturday period is quiet and contemplative, relaxed and subtly expectant.
The Easter Vigil and all of the subsequent liturgies of Easter will explode our sensual perceptions and provide us with a liturgical extravaganza of auditory, tactile and sensory stimulations. As we participate in the theological burst of liturgical expressions of Jesus' resurrected glory, we are able to closely relate to the Apostles, to Mary and to all the believers in Jerusalem on that first Easter morning. Sorrow turns to joy, darkness is transformed into new light and our joyous expectations of new and eternal life are renewed.
Our faith will again feel the intensity of the Paschal Mystery as the entire communion of the Church proclaims, "Alleluia! Alleluia!" We should most deeply recall the prayer from the blessing of the Paschal candle. "Christ yesterday and today, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega. All time belongs to Him and all glory, forever and ever. Amen.
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