Vigil of Easter

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  The Vigil of Easter – Station:  St. John Lateran

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006

My invitation for news about “the wearing of the rose” in your parishes brought some good feedback.  Fr. TJ wrote via e-mail (edited): “We used rose colored vestments at my parishes; but unfortunately they are actually more of a hot pink, and I only have two rose vestments to share among three parishes. …  (I)n the spirit of wishing to adhere to the traditions of the historic Latin rite in the wearing of a ‘festive’ color on Laetare and Gaudete Sundays, I use them.”  Thanks, Father.  I am sure your flock also thanks you for the opportunity to partake of these traditions and also learn from the explanations you gave them about the custom.  No doubt you had to overcome the initial repugnance for “hot pink”, which abuses the senses rather than the rubrics.  Let this be a spur to you to obtain vestments of a more noble shade. 

While the invitation to send feedback is always open, some of you took my invitation as a chance to let me in on some of the liturgical abuses you have seen. For example, JD of GA shared this via e-mail (edited): “Sorry to report … there were no roses in my church, only thorns.  The drummer in the choir band walked around with his usual cup of coffee in the choir area that is behind the altar.  Our priest said the opening salutation in the baptistery and then processed to the altar.  He neglected to recite the Penitential Prayer (we do not recite the Confiteor in our church).  He neglected to recite the Nicene Creed.  In a ceremony commissioning those who assist with the distribution of the Precious Body and Blood he referred to them as Ministers of the Eucharist and then correcting himself he said, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist.”   

That coffee cup bearing percussionist interests me.  This could be really useful on Sundays when coffee and donuts are available, as they are in many places.  As a matter of fact I am reminded of a visit I made to a controversial parish in my native place.  They had coffee and donuts also, but in the church during Mass, rather than afterwards in the hall.  So, that coffee mug would have been useful.  It is so hard to juggle the donut, the missalette and a little bio-degradable paper cup all while sticking your hand out for the “bread” from the “Eucharistic Minister”. 

Concerning the title of lay people who help the priest and deacons distribute, I could write reams of material.  Suffice to say that the proper term is “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion”.  The bishop, priest and deacon are the only “Ministers of the Eucharist”.  Lay people are never “Ministers of the Eucharist”, but they can be, in case of genuine necessity, a great help in distribution of Communion, either in church or to the homebound, and so forth.   It is helpful to review what the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments wrote in its document Redemptionis Sacramentum about the participation of lay people involving the Eucharist (my emphasis):

[156.] This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.
“extraordinary minister of the Eucharist”

[157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.

[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.

To “reprobate” something is the juridical/technical way of forbidding something so that not even long established custom can allow it to go on.  I think we have to admit that some priests invite lay people do take over duties and ministries which properly belong to the priest and deacon because they want to make people feel good, or give them a sense of being actively involved.  I do not fault the good motive these priests usually have.  I do fault their neglect of continuing priestly formation, by which they ought to have known better than to do these things.  If the priest truly understands who he is in the Church, he will not do these sorts of things.  Thus, priests need to stay abreast of documents from the Holy See and continue to reflect on the meaning of the complimentary roles of priests and laity in the Church.

Our forty day Lenten journey has brought us to the ultimate festal day of the whole liturgical year.  Hopefully we have all participated in the Sacred Triduum ceremonies of Thursday and Friday.  We saw the priesthood and Eucharist instituted at Holy Thursday.  A glimspe of Easter glory was given us with the singing of the Gloria.  The priest responded to Christ’s priestly command to serve by washing the feet of males only (viri).  Christ in the Blessed Sacrament was reposed and the altar was stripped.  On Friday the Passion was sung and the Cross kissed.  We could receive Communion but we “fasted” from Mass.  On “liturgical” Saturday, that is until sundown, we had neither Mass nor Holy Communion, and thus we arrived at the nadir of the year in our preparation for Easter.  Suddenly with the Vigil, flowers, instrumental music, and white and gold vestments return.  The Church springs back to life like Christ from His tomb.

Since in earlier years of the series we have already looked at the Collect, Super Oblata and Post Communion of Easter Sunday’s Mass, it seems appropriate to turn our attention to the Vigil of Easter, the most important day of the entire liturgical year.  You might remember that in 2004 we looked at the Exsultet sung by the deacon in honor of the Christ Candle lighted from the fire kindled at the beginning of the liturgy.

Remember that at this point, the liturgy began in darkness.  The priest kindled the fire and prepared the candle.  Light began to spread through the church from hand to had as the smaller candles held by the faithful were lit.  The deacon sings three times Lumen Christi … The Light of Christ, three times as the sacred ministers process to the sanctuary.  The Christ Candle is set in place, incensed, and Exsultet is sung.  The liturgy of the word begins, and after each reading there is a Collect.  The 2002 Missale Romanum presents 11 different prayers.  We shall examine the final Collect, which follows the singing of the Gloria and the lighting of the candles on the altar during the ringing of the bells.

Deus, qui hanc sacratissimam noctem
gloria dominicae resurrectionis illustras,
excita in Ecclesia tua adoptionis spiritum,
ut, corpore et mente renovati,
puram tibi exhibeamus servitutem.

This is adapted from the prayer in the 1962MR situated in the same moment of the Mass.  The 1962 prayer was the same as that found in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary.

O God, who illuminate this most holy night
by the glory of the Lord’s resurrection,
rouse up the spirit of adoption in Your Church,
so that, having been renewed in mind and body,
we may render You our unstained service.

There is a reading from the New Testament, the first Alleluia of the season and the Gospel proclaimed in usual way.  There follows the baptismal rite with the singing of the Litany of Saints, blessing of Easter water, and the conferral of the sacraments with a confession of Faith.   When the Eucharistic part of the Mass begins, in the usual way, the priest sings the

Suscipe, quaesumus, Domine, preces populi tui
cum oblationibus hostiarum,
ut, paschalibus initiata mysteriis,
ad aeternitatis nobis medelam, te operante, proficiant.

This is identical to the corresponding prayer in the Gelasian and also Secret of the Mass in the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum.  A note about pascha and its various forms.  This word concerns all things Easter: the first Passover and passage of the Jews from slavery to freedom, the Jewish rites of the sacrificing the lambs at Passover or, in the Christian sense, the Passion and Resurrection of the Lamb of God, and the subsequent renewal of these mysteries both in Holy Mass and each year in the Triduum and Easter.

Receive, O Lord, we beg you, the prayers of Your people
with offerings of sacrifices
so that the things initiated in the paschal mysteries,
may, You causing it, avail for us unto the remedy of eternity.

Holy Mass continues as normal to the consecration, during which the priest says the words pro multis (“for the many”), and thence to the most perfect form of active participation, the distribution and reception of Holy Communion.  For many who have been brought into the full embrace of Holy Church, this will be the first time they have received the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Risen Christ.

Spiritum nobis, Domine, tuae caritatis infunde,
ut, quos sacramentis paschalibus satiasti,
tua facias pietate concordes.

This prayer was not in the Gelasian but is to be found in the Veronese Sacramentary in the month of November, though it has uno caelesti pane rather than sacramentis paschalibus.  It was also the corresponding prayer in the 1962MR and earlier editions.

Infuse in us, O Lord, the Spirit of Your charity,
in order that in Your compassion You make one in mind
those whom you have satiated with the mysterious paschal sacraments.

Please accept my prayerful best wishes to you and yours for a fruitful and holy Easter season.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Henry Edwards says:

    1973 ICEL versions for the Easter Vigil:

    Lord God,
    you have brightened this night
    with the radiance of the risen Christ.
    Quicken the spirit of sonship in your Church;
    renew us in mind and body
    to give you whole-hearted service.

    Super Oblata
    accept the prayers and offerings of your people.
    With your help
    may this Easter mystery of our redemption
    bring to perfection the saving work you have begun in us.

    Post Communionem
    you have nourished us with your Easter sacraments.
    Fill us with your Spirit
    and make us one in peace and love.

    And here is the appropriate place to mention the page

    that shows the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation) of the Vigil in parallel Latin and English extracted from one of Father Z’s most beautiful columns in the WDTPRS series in The Wanderer.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    The drummer in the choir band walked around with his usual cup of coffee in the choir area that is behind the altar.

    What would one expect of a percussionist at Mass? It seems to me his principal problem was not his cup of coffee but that he was there at all. Not, I assume, as a timpanist for an orchestral Mass. I’m reminded rather of a Christmas Eve snare drummer (in GA also) whose piercing rim shots punctuated the most holy moments of Holy Mass in most memorable fashion.

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