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Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil

From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.


He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”


I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.


For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.


See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.


I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.


Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.


The Harrowing of Hell (copy of Jan Brueghel the Younger)

Frans Francken II (1581–1642) (attributed to)

Grosvenor Museum


Easter Vigil Exsultet or Easter Proclamation

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,

exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,

let the trumpet of salvation

sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!


Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,

ablaze with light from her eternal King,

let all corners of the earth be glad,

knowing an end to gloom and darkness.


Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,

arrayed with the lightning of his glory,

let this holy building shake with joy,

filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.


(Therefore, dearest friends,

standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,

invoke with me, I ask you,

the mercy of God almighty,

that he, who has been pleased to number me,

though unworthy, among the Levites,

may pour into me his light unshadowed,

that I may sing this candle's perfect praises.)


(V. The Lord be with you.

R. And with your spirit.)

V. Lift up your hearts.

R. We lift them up to the Lord.

V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

R. It is right and just.

It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heart

and with devoted service of our voice,

to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,

and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.


Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,

and, pouring out his own dear Blood,

wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.


These, then, are the feasts of Passover,

in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,

whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.


This is the night,

when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,

from slavery in Egypt

and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.


This is the night

that with a pillar of fire

banished the darkness of sin.


This is the night

that even now, throughout the world,

sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices

and from the gloom of sin,

leading them to grace

and joining them to his holy ones.


This is the night,

when Christ broke the prison-bars of death

and rose victorious from the underworld.


Our birth would have been no gain,

had we not been redeemed.


O wonder of your humble care for us!

O love, O charity beyond all telling,

to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,

destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault

that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!


O truly blessed night,

worthy alone to know the time and hour

when Christ rose from the underworld!


This is the night

of which it is written:

The night shall be as bright as day,

dazzling is the night for me,

and full of gladness.


The sanctifying power of this night

dispels wickedness, washes faults away,

restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,

drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,

accept this candle, a solemn offering,

the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,

an evening sacrifice of praise,

this gift from your most holy Church.


But now we know the praises of this pillar,

which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,

a fire into many flames divided,

yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,

for it is fed by melting wax,

drawn out by mother bees

to build a torch so precious.


O truly blessed night,

when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,

and divine to the human.


Therefore, O Lord,

we pray you that this candle,

hallowed to the honor of your name,

may persevere undimmed,

to overcome the darkness of this night.


Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,

and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.


May this flame be found still burning

by the Morning Star:

the one Morning Star who never sets,

Christ your Son,

who, coming back from death's domain,

has shed his peaceful light on humanity,

and lives and reigns for ever and ever.


R. Amen.





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