Easter: the Mother of all Holy Vigils

As per the preconciliar tradition, the Easter Vigil in Jerusalem is celebrated on the morning of Holy Saturday. Jesus rises again in this place, today as he did then, without the clamor of the crowds.

Considered the “mother of all holy vigils” and celebrated in the morning at the place of the Anastasis (Resurrection) due to local needs related to the Status Quo, this celebration in Jerusalem is the first Easter Vigil that takes place in the world. Metaphorically speaking, many link it to its origin: Easter starts from the place where everything occurred, in which the History and the Geography of Salvation intersect. Others, on the other hand, like to think that Jesus, today as he did then, rises again in silence and slowly the Word and joy spread throughout the world.

The liturgy was followed by the candlelight rite, held in front of the Anointing Stone, at the entrance to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher and led by the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa. Immediately afterwards, the Liturgy of the Word began, with seven readings and seven psalms, in which the Church ponders the wonders what the Lord has done for his people and trusts in his promise. At the end of the readings, the Gloria, accompanied by the organ, announced to all the Resurrection: thanks to Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, this is now the place of the new creation.

Then there was the renewal of the baptismal promises, in which everyone repeated his or her ‘yes’ aloud, before being sprinkled with holy water.

“In this liturgy we do not celebrate a memory,” said Mons. Pizzaballa in the homily. “What we do in these gestures is not just a memorial of what was done by our forefathers. Even today, here, God loves, creates, frees, leads, forgives. Today he fulfills the work of Redemption.” He then focused on various elements that characterize the Holy Night: night, fire, water and bread, describing and updating them to remind us that the story told in this Vigil and every day from the Edicule of the Holy Sepulcher concerns us closely and also tells the story of the history of salvation for all.

“I hope that we may all come out of this place full of life and light,” said Mons. Pizzaballa in the homily. “Illuminated and awakened by the fire of the Holy Spirit, so as to rekindle in the world the love that changed the meaning of this night.”

Among the general enthusiasm that characterized the last moments of the liturgy, Br. Zacheusz Drazek, President of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher said, “We friars, who live with the Resurrection, celebrate the liturgy of the place every day. Doing it on this day helps us understand even more the importance of the place where God has sent us to serve. I never take for granted getting to living in such close contact with the Resurrection.”

Giovanni Malaspina