Following the Death of Jesus on the Cross, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret follower of Jesus, who had not consented to his condemnation, went to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (Lk 23:50–52).
Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus brought about a hundred-pound weight mixture of spices and helped wrap the body of Jesus (Jn 19:39–40).
Pilate asked for confirmation from the centurion of whether Jesus was dead (Mk 15:44). A soldier had pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out and Pilate was informed that Jesus was dead. Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock (Mt 27:59–60) in a garden near the site of the crucifixion.
Nicodemus brought myrrh and aloes, and placed them in the linen with the body, in keeping with Jewish burial customs (Jn 19:39–40).
They rolled a large rock over the entrance of the tomb.
Then they returned home and rested, because Shabbat had begun at sunset (Lk 23:54–56). The Church spends this day in prayer and fasting, meditating on the Passion and Death of Jesus and His Descent into Hell, awaiting his Resurrection.
The Easter Vigil Following ancient tradition, the Church keeps vigil for the Lord, the faithful carry lighted lamps, as if looking for the Lord when He returns. The ceremony begins after nightfall and must end before daybreak. Even though it be celebrated before midnight, this is a Paschal Mass of the Resurrection.
In 2020, acts of public worship were suspended before, during and after Holy Week to address the global COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the Celebrations for Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum will be in the presence of Christ’s faithful.
However, there is a continuing need for social distancing measures, mask wearing and careful hygiene. To this end, the Bishops’ Conference has provided guidance for Holy Week. Here’s the section on the Easter Vigil Mass.
Easter Vigil Mass
This should be celebrated in Cathedrals and Parish Churches only. If a priest is unable to celebrate the Easter Vigil, he should pray the prescribed Office of Readings for Easter Day noting the number of readings, chants and prayers to be used.
For the celebration of the Easter Vigil, the Paschal candle should be prepared, enthroned and lit in the Sanctuary before the people gather in the church, or simply lit at the beginning of the celebration. The ministers should process in silence to the sanctuary where the Celebrant begins the celebration with the Sign of the Cross and the Greeting, Dear brothers and sisters, on this most sacred night…
At the end of the Greeting, the Easter Proclamation (the Exsultet) immediately follows, preferably using the Shorter Form. This is either said or sung by a single voice. The faithful should not have votive candles for the Easter Vigil.
The Liturgy of the Word follows. In order to expedite the liturgy in a dignified way, it is recommended that two Old Testament readings from both the Law and the Prophets with their respective psalms, in addition to the reading of Exodus 14 and its canticle (which may never be omitted) are used (Rubrics, #21). The homily, after the proclamation of the Gospel, is not to be omitted, but is to be brief (Rubrics, #36).
The Baptism of Catechumens, the Reception of other Christians into full Communion with the Catholic Church and the Confirmation is not recommended at the Easter Vigil but should take place at another time. The celebrant should bless the baptismal water in the font or in a suitable receptacle in the sanctuary. The Renewal of Baptismal Promises should be made by those present, but the celebrant should not sprinkle the faithful, nor should the holy water stoups be refilled.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist follows. Holy Communion should be given under one kind from the newly consecrated Sacrament according the previous Guidance offered by the Bishops’ Conference.
On Holy Saturday we have the third instalment of our four-part art and culture series 'At the Foot of the Cross' - Michaelangelo's famous and profoundly beautiful Pietà.