Holy Saturday – At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad, alleluia.
Very early on the morning after the Sabbath, when the sun has just risen,
they came to the tomb, alleluia. (Liturgy of the Hours, Roman Rite)

“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.” This passage from an ancient Holy Saturday homily is read throughout the Church today. Churches are empty, we are awaiting the outcome of this story of our redemption, as it will be proclaimed to us through the readings of the Easter Vigil. The Gospel reading for the vigil, Matthew 28:1-6, bring us to this silence, this waiting that is essential for our Christian life. Mary Magdalen and the other Mary came to the tomb “as the first day of the week was dawning” and experienced the joyous proclamation: “He is risen; he is not here.” These women proclaimed to the disciples and to us the message of life, giving us the hope to live with great joy, even with darkness and uncertainty.

The Gospel reading does not present the resurrection as the only main element of salvation. Salvation is permanently united to the cross. Jesus, out of profound love, gives up with complete freedom his divine status and accepts fully our human condition. His death and resurrection establishes Jesus as the Savior and redeemer of all, the one who also brings us resurrection and eternal life. Through Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles, the disciples received this glorious message, but until they received a direct experience of the risen Christ they continued in waiting and uncertainty. This experience can also be with us this Easter Vigil. As we face so much uncertainty in our lives, we could feel overwhelmed by fear, unable to see the glory during our difficulties. That is precisely why the liturgy of today is full of contrasts. As the liturgical historian, A. Stuiber says, “The great antitheses of night and dawn, fasting and Eucharistic meal, mourning and festive joy provided an awesome experience of the contrast between death and life, decease and resurrection, Satan and Kyrios, old eon and new eon.”

The day of silence leads to the Easter Vigil, the greatest celebration of Christian worship, where we receive new members into the Church. Through rich symbolism we are reminded of the reality of the risen Christ. The paschal candle, the holy water, the anointing, the white garment, the profession of faith, they are all symbols of life, the light that overcomes the darkness. Let us experience this new Easter Vigil of our lives with confidence in the power of Christ to transform our existence and give us the hope and joy to celebrate both our joys and sorrows as essential elements of the salvation history that Christ has promised for each of us. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!