HOLY SATURDAY (Cycle C)
VIGIL MASS FOR HOLY EASTER
Gen 1:1-2:2; Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35 or 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20, 22; Gen 22:1-18; Ps 16:5, 8-11; Ex 14:15-15:1; Ex 15:1-6, 17-18; Is 54:5-14; Ps 30:2, 4-6, 11-13; Is 55:1-11; Is 12:2-6; Bar 3:9-15, 32-44; Ps 19:8-11; Ez 36:16-17a, 18-28; Ps 42:3, 5; 43:3-4; or Is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6; or 51:12-15, 18-19; Rom 6:3-11; Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Lk 24:1-12
Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).
God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).
On Holy Saturday we meditate on our Lord's suffering and death. The altar is left bare, and the sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. The Church waits expectantly at the Lord's tomb and draws on the symbolism of darkness versus light. The Liturgy, like Sacred Scripture, identifies darkness with sin and light with Christ who defeats the darkness. It is only after the solemn vigil during the night that the Easter celebration begins with the dawn in a spirit of joy that carries us through the next fifty days to the Feast of Pentecost.
The Theme of the Readings for the Easter Vigil: Christ is
the Light of our Salvation
The Liturgy of this evening draws on the symbolism of light versus darkness. In the Bible darkness is identified with sin while light is identified with the truth of the Word (Jn 1:1-5). For those who walk in darkness, Jesus Christ shines as a bright light that shows the way to salvation, and our Easter candle symbolizes "Christ our light." Tonight the congregation of the faithful is invited to re-experience the grace of our baptism as new candidates are baptized into the family that is the Universal [catholic] Church.
The Gospel Reading for the Easter Vigil is Luke 24:1-12 ~
The Empty Tomb—Christ is Risen!
1 But at daybreak on the first day of the week they [the women disciples] took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; 3 but when they entered they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. 5 They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? 6 He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day." 8 And they remembered his words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. 10 The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, 11 but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.
Obediently observing the Sabbath rest, the women disciples could not return to the tomb until daybreak on the day after the Sabbath. St. John's Gospel explains that the Sabbath of the holy week of Unleavened Bread was a solemn observance (Jn 19:31). For the Jews, the Sabbath is the last day of the week (Gen 2:1-3). The women returned on the "first day" of the week, which early Christians designated by the Roman custom as "the day of the sun" or Sunday. Christians called Sunday the "Lord's Day" to commemorate Jesus' resurrection for the dead and to offer worship in the sacrifice of the Eucharist (Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10, CCC 1166 and 2174). Saturday was the last day of the Creation event when God rested from the work of creation; therefore, Sunday was the first day of the Creation event in Genesis 1:1. Jesus' resurrection on this day signifies a new creation and a new age of mankind. It is also the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits that fell on the day after the Great Sabbath of the Holy Week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:4-14; Jn 19:31).
The women are named in verse 10: Mary Magdalene (cured of demon possession), Joanna (the wife of Cuza, Herod Antipas' chief steward), and Mary the mother of James. It is included that there were "others who accompanied them." Those "others" were Salome, the mother of James and John Zebedee (Mk 16:1) and perhaps Susanna among others (Lk 8:2-3).
The week from the 14th to the 21st of Nisan contained three of the seven annual sacred feasts: Passover on the 14th, Unleavened Bread from the 15th to the 21st and the Feast of Firstfruits within that holy week on the day after the Sabbath, on the day we call Sunday. The Feast of Firstfruits that fall on the day after the Sabbath of the holy week of the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread is one of the two annual feasts that is not given a specific date—Firstfruits on the day after the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost that was commanded to fall 50 days after Firstfruits (Lev 23:9-11, 15-16); therefore, both feast-days always fell on the first day of the week which is our Sunday. The Feast of Firstfruits celebrated the first fruits of the spring barley harvest in the Promised Land and during which the fruits of the barley harvest are presented to God along with the sacrifice of an unblemished male lamb, a grain offering, a libation of red wine, and a public profession of faith (Lev 23:9-14; Dt 26:1-10).
Each of the sacred annual feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits are fulfilled in Jesus' last week in Jerusalem:
With the exception of the Samaritans and the Jewish sect of the Karaites, most modern Jews designate Nisan the 16th as the feast of Firstfruits, which destroys the connection to Christ's Resurrection. Flavius Josephus, the first century AD Jewish priest/historian, records the feast of Pentecost, and therefore the feast of Firstfruits that determined the day of Pentecost fifty days later, used to always fall on the first day of the week but the day was altered (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.8.4 . This change in the date was to sever the connection between the Feast of Firstfruits and Jesus' resurrection.
The woman disciples from the Galilee found the tomb empty. The angels who rolled away the stone explained to them that what Jesus told them in the Galilee concerning the prophecy of His Passion and Resurrection on the third day had been fulfilled (Lk 9:22, 44; 18:31-33).
All four of the Gospels record that the woman disciples were the first to hear the angelic announcement of Jesus' Resurrection. It is their reward for their faithfulness in standing by Jesus at His Cross of suffering. The women immediately went to tell the eleven Apostles (Judas is already dead), but they did not believe them. However, both the Gospels of Luke and John report that Peter ran to investigate the tomb, but St. John includes the information that the "beloved disciple"/the "other disciple," believed to be St. John himself, also ran to the tomb and discovered the tomb empty except for the burial cloths (Jn 20:2-10). It is significant that both accounts mention the burial cloths. If robbers had disturbed the tomb, they would have left the corpse behind and would have taken the expensive burial cloths, and if Jesus' disciples had taken the body of the Christ they would have carried away the body still wrapped in the cloths out of respect. St. John's Gospel reports that the "other" disciple "saw and believed" that Christ had been raised from the dead (Jn 20:8).
The promise that Jesus made to Martha of Bethany has been fulfilled on a Sunday that changed the course of human history. Jesus told Martha "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (Jn 11:25-26). The Final Age of mankind has begun!
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2016