Rorate Caeli

The anticipated Easter Vigil as a sign of History

The day on which I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. At that time [1927], the practice was still that of anticipating Easter Vigil on the morning, after which the gloom of Holy Saturday continued, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this peculiar paradox, this peculiar anticipation of the light on a dark day, could be almost an image of history in our time. On one hand, there is still the silence of God and of his absence, but, in the Resurrection of Christ, there is already the anticipation of God's "yes", and we live based on this anticipation, and, through the silence of God, we feel his words, and, through the darkness of his absence, we foresee his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection amidst a history that goes on is the strength that shows us the path and helps us move forward.

We thank the good God because he has given us this light and we ask him that it may remain with us always. And on this day I have reason to thank Him and all those who once again have made me realize the presence of the Lord, who have stayed with me so that I would not lose the light.

I find myself before the last stage of my life's path, and I do not know what awaits me. I do know, however, that the light of God is here, that He is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness; that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world. And this helps me go forward in safety. It helps us move forward and, at this moment, I thank from the bottom of my heart all those who continuously make me perceive God's "yes" through their own faith.
Benedict XVI

April 16, 2012


  1. quirinus12:21 PM

    The Holy Father mentions the traditional Missal quite often in his impromptu homilies and speeches. It's particularly heartwarming to ear him mention the pre-1955 rites of the Holy Week.

    Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum et beatum faciat eum in terra et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

  2. I wish an indult would be granted to celebrate the Triduum as it was done before the "restored" version was promulgated. It hardly seems right that the most sacred days in the liturgical year can't be observed with a rite more than 60 years old.

  3. This is fascinating. If I say, "this holy man inhabits a different plane from us ordinary people," I mean that in the most positive, complimentary and humbled way.

    What a startling image of our Faith he offers us here, as so often, and yet so simple to grasp once we are shown it.

  4. quirinus:

    Perhaps not so heart-warming to recall that he was a voice against them some years later. A fine speech nonetheless.

  5. the Angels' little friend2:56 PM

    "Veni Sancte Spiritus". . .The soul placed by Our Triumphant Lord on the pinnacle position of the Papal Throne is humbled before Omniscient Wisdom: "I find myself before the last stage of my life's path, and I do not know what awaits me." With illumined humility and increasing charity, he expresses his true dependence on: "all those who continuously make me perceive God's "yes" through their own faith."

    As he must journey still further on the Providential Path replete with perilous portions, may his docility be enobled, strengthened and guided by the privileged, precisely docile souls chosen by the Holy Trinity to accompany him through his travail in exile to our Heavenly Homeland so that it becomes a procession of both the pure and the penitant children of God lead by the Sovereign Pontiff toward the outstretched arms of Our Risen Lord and Savior Who will lead us to His Eternal Father.

    Be assured, thou who art the Vicar of Christ, that the intercession of Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph surrounds you with the Angels until these docile souls arise and arrive in great number one by one stepping toward the procession with their own "Fiat voluntas tua". Then, will it be heard: "Fear the Lord, and give Him honour, becaue the hour of His judgment is come; and adore ye Him, that made Heaven and earth, the sea, and the fountains of waters." Apoc.14:6-7.

  6. @Kid,

    then let us follow the Holy Father on our own journey of Faith, from the dark of our youth to the enlightenment of old age.

    This journey is what distinguishes our religion of Truth form the Pharisees - we are not not condemned by the sins of our past, less still those of our fathers.

  7. Peter3:09 PM

    What beautiful memories from the Holy Father's childhood!


    I don't know if I would call it an "abuse" to anticipate the Easter Vigil, as was done from the Middle Ages onward: this is after all a custom that lasted for 800 years in the Church. In the Middle Ages there was considerable diversity in the time for the celebration of the Vigil; it was fixed to the morning of Holy Saturday by St. Pius V in 1570, in accordance with the custom of Rome. There were good reasons for this: notably the fact that, in a Christian society, there was no longer any need to have an all-night Vigil, since there were no longer hundreds of baptisms being administered on Easter night. Thus the offices of Holy Saturday and Easter day gradually became separated into two distinct offices. If the reformers in 1951 had really wanted to "restore" the original Easter Vigil then they should also have abolished the Mass of Easter Sunday! With the development of the liturgy in the Middle Ages, Holy Saturday (a true vigil, i.e., anticipation of the impending feast) and Easter Sunday really each have their own themes.

    That said, in principle, it would have been possible to "restore" (with the reservations noted above) the nocturnal hour for the celebration of the Vigil without mangling the ceremonies: the only change that would have been necessary would be to substitute the office of Lauds at the end of the Vigil for the traditional Vespers. But why on earth was it necessary to abolish the triple candle-stick with its lovely symbolism, or to remove the blessing of the Paschal Candle from the Exsultet (so much for "authenticity" since the text of the Exsultet now speaks of a blessing that no longer occurs!), or to cut the twelve prophecies down to four!? Even the rite of Paul VI stepped backed from this travesty by allowing optional additional readings. But even in favor of the old "illogical" morning hour of celebration, we might note that the "restored" nighttime celebration of the vigil means the the greatest feast of the liturgical year has no first Vespers and no Matins ... which is odd.

  8. Lautensack3:39 PM

    The Byzantine Rite Christians also celebrate their parallel to the Easter Vigil, the 'Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St Basil with 15 readings', during the day, and often in the morning of Holy Saturday.

    Like its Byzantine equivalent, the Easter Vigil is not yet the 'first Mass of Easter', but contains still a penitential Tract following the Alleluia (the Byzantines still use the pentitential 'Liturgy of St Basil' rather than the normal 'Liturgy of St John Chrysostom' and do not yet sing the typical paschal chants, which play an important role in every service from the main Easter morning prayers (Orthros) and Liturgy, celebrated soon after Midnight, to the end of Eastertide).

    Comparisons with the Midnight Mass are also a bit problematic, since the Midnight Mass is placed between Mattins and Lauds of Christmas, but the Easter Vigil between None and Vespers of Holy Saturday. Easter then begins with its own service of Mattins, which is the first real paschal service, full of Alleluias. I do not know when these Mattins were introduced, but one can assume that by the time this happened the Easter Vigil was already celebrated during the day of Holy Saturday.

  9. This is why I generally oppose the 1962 missal in favor of going back earlier. I think we need to adopt the principle that we need to go back to a missal and breviary before Bugnini made any changes to them. A simple indult to celebrate the pre-55 holy week, with the option of saying the vigil at night, having the Lauds changed out for vespers (but not with the Pian psalter).

    I think too, given Bugnini's pedigree, that it is plausible he was an arian heretic, wherever he could he removed trinitarian symbolism, not only with the Novus Ordo but even in the traditional Mass by eliminating the Trisagion. The way it worked pre-bugnini is that the triple candle was lit from the easter fire, but only one part of it, for the revelation of God the Father. Then the three lumen Christi chants which are sung during the procession in are where the rest of the Trisagion was lit. Then during the exultet the paschal candle was lit from the second candle of the Trisagion in order to symbolize the incarnation. Then with the lit paschal candle, the priest blesses it puts the grains of incense in, symbolizing the crucifixion. That's a gorgeous liturgical symbolism of the Trinity and the incarnation which is very ancient.
    The Bugnini rite removes that, and instead has the paschal candle lit, and destroys the symbolism of the crucifixion by putting the grains of incense in before it is lit (the lighting symbolizing the incarnation). That just looks like Arianism, especially if we remember that the original 4th eucharistic prayer of the novus ordo contained a heresy, pater tu solus es Deus(!) and had to be removed before the NO could be promulgated.
    Thus, I think the principle is warranted, say no to anything bugnini.

  10. I love him so much that it makes me sad to think of his dying. Who cares about liturgical nit picking in light of that possibility.

    You people have all been offered the gift of eternal life, and you complain endlessly about the wrapping paper.

  11. M. A.6:04 PM

    "I love him so much that it makes me sad to think of his dying. Who cares about liturgical nit picking in light of that possibility."

    We care because the salvation of souls is at stake, and that is not "nit picking"; that is charity, a charity that does not exclude love for our Holy Father. We must never lose sight of the supernatural realities which are so often clouded by mere human sentiment.

  12. "after which the gloom of Holy Saturday continued, without the Alleluia."

    Strange. Last time I looked the Alleluia appeared eighteen times in the old rite for Holy Saturday morning.

  13. Ferraiuolo8:22 PM

    Look at the latest from Vatican Insider! You will like it!!!

  14. Erkenwald8:37 PM


    On the history of the rites, I stand corrected!

    On reform: I believe the triple candlestick was a medieval development primarily aimed at preventing the candle going out (see the Catholic Encyclopedia), and I have to admit, I see the carrying of the Paschal candle itself as having rather greater symbolism. On the blessing of the Exsultet, I can only answer "why, indeed?", and on readings point out that the new translation increases the minimum number to seven (which, however small, is improvement; presumably they held off 12 in deference to complaints about tired knees).

    I would also agree that the addition of Vespers might be a good, though again, I expect pastoral concerns relating to exhaustion would probably be cited. They could be moved to the morning of Easter Sunday, of course, but then we end up with the same problem again...

    In the end, though, earthly liturgy is only a pale reflection of the heavenly. We can't expect to find a perfect solution.


  15. You people have all been offered the gift of eternal life, and you complain endlessly about the wrapping paper.

    There are two things here I don't think you understand. The first that that as human beings knowledge is mediated to us through the senses, that means the wrapping paper very much determines how well we do or do not receive the gift, as a matter of nature, not merely preference. Thus more beautiful liturgy, and symbolism help us receive the gift better than its absence.
    Second, extrinsically it gives more glory to God to have more beautiful liturgy than less, so it is also about him. The ceremonies of the Church's tradition had been fashioned for millennia by saints, theologians, martyrs, and holy men who lived in a different plane of existence, to help us do likewise.
    Now, you may or may not agree that ritual "x" or ritual "y" accomplishes that better than others, and you're certainly entitled to such a judgment. Yet, that is a whole world away from saying it doesn't matter. Of curse it does and the Church has always operated under the impression that it does, more or less until 1965.

  16. Rubricarius, he said that light appeared in the Mass, but then darkness returned, to reappear only on the proper texts of Sunday, not that there were no alleluias in the mass itself.

  17. Gratias3:35 AM

    Happy birthday Holy Father. Your writings will remain with the Church per secual seculorum. Here we pray you may enjoy a very, very long life. Thank you for your Sanctity.

  18. Peter2:35 PM

    Athanasius, thank you for that beautiful description of the Lumen Christi ceremony and blessing of the Paschal Candle in the traditional rite. I have never seen all the elements explained so well. May I ask where you came across that? I have never heard the triple-candle referred to as the Trisagion, though. Is it possible that you are confusing it with something else? I have heard it referred to as the arundo, though I do not know if that is it's technical name. I do hope that we will see the restoration of traditional Holy Week before too long, at least as an ad libitum option for those communities who wish to use it.

  19. New Catholic,

    But the use of Alleluia continued through the day. At the Blessing of Houses Alleluia was said eight time and at Compline a further eight times.

    Mattins and Lauds of Pascha, anticipated in the evening of Holy Saturday, heard the Alleluia twenty-seven times at Mattins and twenty-four times at Lauds.

    Hardly an absence of the Alleluia. Its absence is a characteristic of the new order where, by my reckoning, when the Vigil is celebrated, the Alleluia count is down by sixty-seven: gloom indeed.


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