The vigil of Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday should be the focal point of the whole year. This is the "Feast of Feasts"! Florence Berger describes preparing the Easter breads and other victuals, decorating and hiding Easter eggs (including the tradition of the "Alleluia Egg"), and incorporating blessing of foods at the Easter meal. These blessings come from older form of the Roman Ritual. There are now updated blessings from the "Book of Blessings" or new Roman Ritual.
Christ our passover has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep festival, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (Lesson from Vespers of Easter)
Holy Saturday services were always confusing to me as a child. I couldn't understand why we should be sharing in the blessing of new fire, and a new Paschal candle, and new water when Christ still lay in death. Why, in the early hours of Saturday morning, should we pray, "This is the night in which . . . Christ arose victorious from the grave"? And again, "on this sacred night receive the evening sacrifice of this incense. . . . O truly blessed night." Sometimes I wish they would put these ceremonies back where they belong — as a vigil service of Easter. The ears of children are sharp and quick. Once they hear the "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia" at the Holy Saturday Mass, it is Easter for them. [Editor's Note: This was written in 1949. The Church did restore the Holy Saturday vigil Mass in 1955, and it is still celebrated on the eve of Easter, instead of Saturday morning. --JGM]
As soon as the "Ite, missa est" sends them forth, they are racing home to prepare the feast. There are eggs to color and cakes to bake and bread to knead. There are shoes to shine and backs to scrub and curls to roll. There are flowers to gather and fruits to polish and baskets to hide. All things must be renewed at home as the fire and light and water were renewed at church.
In years past it was customary to re-light the family hearth fire with the Easter fire of the Church. There is a beautiful prayer which was recited as the home fire was kindled by the light from the Paschal candle. All food was cooked at this fire. How old the prayer is, we do not know, but in it pagan and Christian virtues rub elbows. This was used as a morning prayer as the hearth was lit to sanctify the day's work in Christ.
I will kindle my fire this morning In the presence of the holy angels of Heaven, In presence of Ariel of the loveliest form, In presence of Uriel of the myriad charms Without malice, without jealousy, without envy Without fear, without terror of anyone under the sun But the Holy Son of God to shield me. God, kindle Thou in my heart within A flame of love to my neighbor To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all, To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall, O Son of the loveliest Mary From the lowliest thing that liveth To theName that is highest of all. [read more]