Holy Saturday

"Prepare thou thyself to bear tribulations, and account them the greatest consolation; for the sufferings of this life bear no proportion with the glory to come, although thou alone couldst suffer them all." -- Imitation.

The ceremonies this morning are very long. Two things are necessary to be known in order to understand them: (1) In the early ages of the Church they commenced after sunset today and continued till sunrise on Easter Sunday; (2) the catechumens, or new converts, were assembled tonight for instruction previous to Baptism. The Paschal Candle represents Christ risen from the dead. Five grains of incense are fixed in it to represent the five wounds which He retained in His glorious body. During the blessing of the Candle, the Church, by the mouth of the priest, publishes the inestimable benefit of our redemption in the mysteries of Christ's death and resurrection; then she exhorts the faithful to celebrate the same with devotion; and afterwards, having presented to God and lighted the Candle, she prays for all her children, and begs grace for them to spend Easter well.

The water for Baptism is blessed today, because this day and Whitsun Eve were formerly set apart for the baptism of the newly converted.

The bells are rung again at Mass, and the Alleluia, or Praise ye the Lord, is repeated several times to express joy at the Resurrection.

Holy water is placed at the church doors today, and all ought to take some to their homes. A custom much to be recommended is to sprinkle our foreheads with holy water every morning before we go on our knees to thank God for bringing us through the dangers of the night, and to beg His blessing for the day; and to sprinkle our beds, making the Sign of the Cross over them, before retiring at night.

There is an indulgence for making the Sign of the Cross with holy water. When sprinkling ourselves, we ought also to make a short act of sorrow for our sins -- e.g. "0 my God! because Thou art so good, I love Thee, and am sorry for having offended Thee"; or the words of the Psalmist: "Cleanse me 0 Lord, and I shall be made whiter than snow."

"The mists of sorrow may, o'erspread us here,
And cloud awhile the cheering light of day;
Still faith discerns, the sun which, shall appear
When earth's dim shadows shall have passed away.
A glorious risen life of endless bloom
Awaits us yet, whose portal is the tomb."

Example -- The Holy Sepulchre

Having become peaceable master of the empire, Constantine resolved to erect a magnificent temple to Jesus Christ on the very spot, of His ignominious death. In 326 he committed the fulfillment of this intention to St. Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, directing Dracilianus, Governor of the province, to procure for the Bishop all the requisite workmen and materials, promising himself to send pillars, costly marbles, precious stones, gold, and all the ornaments necessary for making it the richest temple in the world.

Helena determined to take part in so glorious an undertaking. Not deterred by the fatigues (if a long voyage, she set out at the age of seventy-nine, for Palestine, to help in every way the great work of her son. The difficulties wore such as would have daunted a less generous soul. How find the site of the Crucifixion and of the Sepulchre? To disfigure the place, the pagans had thrown upon the hill heaps of stones and rubbish. Subsequently, under Hadrian, they had erected there a statue to Jupiter, and built a temple to Venus, persuaded that the Christians, who abhorred the impure worship of that goddess, would thereby be for ever prevented from repairing thither to adore their crucified God.

By order of Helena, the statues and the infamous temple were demolished, and the materials carted away. On digging deeper, they at length came to the Holy Sepulchre, and near it discovered many relics of the Crucifixion.

The church was built, and for centuries witnessed many changes, having passed from the Christians to the Persians, back again to the Christians, then to the Turks, afterwards to the Crusaders, back again to the Mussulmans, and finally to the Christians. It was very greatly damaged by fire, October 12, 1808, and rebuilt.

At present Catholics, Greeks, Armenians, Copts -- in short, all Christian nations -- have representatives, whose voices rise daily with incense towards that God Who sacrificed His only Son to save the world.

Taken from Catholic Life (pages 51-54), available from The Neumann Press.