Paschal Vigil

Source: District of Asia

Tonight’s Mass is, in a real sense, a “baptismal Mass.”  It was the first Mass, the first Sacrifice offered by the newly baptized; now for the first time they were invited to eat at the table of the Lamb.  For us too it should be a baptism Mass, an occasion to renew our baptismal vows. The Mass has certain peculiarities. Introit, Kyrie, Offertory verse, Agnus Dei and Last Gospel are lacking because it dates to the time when these chants had not yet been introduced. The Litany of the Saints, which formerly preceded every station Mass, serves as the Introit and its conclusion as the Kyrie. At the intonation of the Gloria in excelsis all the bells are rung to herald the joy of Easter to the entire world. The Gloria today is an Easter song, it was that exclusively in ancient times.

The Collect presupposes a night context, it petitions that the newly baptized may fulfil their Christian duties perfectly. The Epistle adds high motivation, "If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above!" Now another thrilling moment: the Alleluia, Easter's hymn par excellence, is thrice repeated. Since Pre-Lent the Alleluia has not been heard, now it will resound time' and time again as the year moves through its course

The Gospel brings the good message of the first Easter. St. Matthew's account was given preference because of the opening phrase, "Late in the night of the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn." We are celebrating this Mass "late in the night of the Sabbath"— between Saturday and Sunday, just before dawn; at this early hour we come with Mary Magdalene to see the grave and hear the angel's message. A Secret of ancient composition would have our Easter offertory gifts effect eternal healing within us.

The changes at the Communion of the Mass have already been noted. As the fruit of our Easter Communion the Post-communion singles out the spirit of divine love. The Ite missa est is embellished by a double, solemn Alleluia and we leave the house of God filled with the joy and grace and happiness of Easter. For in us, as once in the souls of the newly baptized, Christ has come to life. Meanwhile the night has waned, and dawn is breaking—the sacred moment of our Savior's resurrection.

 - Pius Parsch, The Year of Grace