“Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!” – from the Easter Vigil Exultet
We are now at the Easter Vigil – the night Mass where the catechumens are welcomed into the Church. Here are some historical and traditional bits of trivia to share with your friends about the most solemn liturgy of the year.
- Starting in the 11th century, the Easter vigil was progressively moved earlier in the day until in some cases it was celebrated on Holy Saturday morning. Fortunately, this practice was abolished in 1951 in favor of the ancient practice of starting the liturgy after twilight.
- In the Greek Church, fasting was not observed on Saturdays during Lent except for Holy Saturday. In the Roman Rite, fasting was required on all Fridays and Saturdays of Lent until 1966.
- Until the liturgical changes following Vatican II, it had been the custom since the earliest times of the Church to light the Easter fire with a flint. This was symbolic of Christ rising from the rock of his tomb. Pope St. Zachary wrote to St. Boniface about how a fire was lit with flint on Maundy Thursday and then transferred to three lamps that were kept burning until Holy Saturday when the Easter fire was lit from one of them.