Holy Week

Holy Week Ceremonies 2019
by Canon William Avis
As some of you have heard, last year Rome gave permission to several Ecclesia Dei communities including the Institute to cele- brate the ceremonies of Holy Week according to the pre-1955 liturgical books. In the 1950’s many changes occured to the ceremonies of Holy Week. As was remarked in the document permitting the pre-1955 rites, many of these changes caused a disharmony between Holy Week and the rest of the traditional liturgy and removed rites that were celebrated by the Church since time immemorial.
Since many at our parish have never experienced the Holy Week ceremonies celebrated as they were before these changes, I will have a series of articles in the bulletin explaining some of the differences and what to expect. Already comparing a hand missal from before 1950 and one after, one gets a good idea about some of the changes. Here is a preview of some of the things that will be in these articles:
Palm Sunday: the importance of blessed palms, their blessing resembles a Mass; the door knocking ceremony; the reading of the Passion, includes the account of the Last Supper and the guarding of the Holy Sepulcher.
Holy Thursday: inclusion of the Creed.
Good Friday: Mass of the Pre-Sanctified as opposed to a Com- munion Service.
Holy Saturday: Procession with the Triple Candle; Exsultet-the blessing of the Easter Candle; the Prophecies; Blessing of the Baptismal Font; Vespers.

Palm Sunday
by Canon William Avis
Here follows the second in a series of articles giving an intro- duction to the pre-1955 Holy Week Ceremonies.
As one of the most solemn Sundays of the year, Palm Sunday opens Holy Week. It consists of the Blessing of Palms, Proces- sion and Holy Mass. Like all Sundays of the year, it begins with the Asperges Rite.
Blessing of PalmsThis impressive rite greatly resembles a Mass because originally there were two Masses on this day, one for the Palms and another for the Passion. The Blessing begins with an Introit chant Hosanna Filio David, then a collect or opening prayer followed by an Epistle (Exodus 15:27-16:7) about the promise of manna to the Israelites in the desert. After- wards one of two responsories is sung (one recounts the Proph- ecy of Caiphas, the other the Agony in the Garden). Then the Gospel account (Matthew 26:1-9) of the entrance of our Lord in Jerusalem is sung. Following that, the blessing itself of the palms begins with a prayer calling to mind the going forth of Noah from the Ark, Moses from Egypt and the people of Jerusa- lem to greet Christ. This prayer, like the secret of Mass, con- cludes with a Preface, extolling how all creation serves Christ
who reigns supreme, and then a Sanctus. Five prayers then follow, and recall the olive branch the dove brought to Noah after the Great Flood, the great act of Redemption wrought by our Savior, and invoking God’s protection on those who use the blessed palms and the places where they are kept. After the blessing, the palms are distributed at the Communion Rail. The faithful kiss the blessed palm and then the hand of the priest as they receive their palm. A prayer, like the Post-Communion is said.
The ProcessionAfter the dismissal, the procession heads out with each one holding his palm. The schola sings antiphons recalling our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem. When the proces- sion returns to the church, the doors are shut representing that heaven was closed to the children of Adam because of the Original Sin. Two cantors inside the church begin the chant Gloria, Laus et Honor to which the choir outside respond. Then the cantors sing the verses, and the choir the refrain. The two cantors represent the angels in heaven, and the choir the Church on earth. This ceremony harkens to antiquitywhen great per- sonages came to a city, he would be greated by townspeople at the gate where he would be praised before entering the city. When the chant is finished the Subdeacon or crucifer strikes the door with the processional cross, and the doors are opened. This symbolizes that through the Sacrifice of the Cross, our Redeemer has opened the doors of heaven to us. The proces- sion then enters the church while the choir sings the responsory Ingrediente.
The MassWhen the celebrant enters the sanctuary, he rever- ences the altar and then goes to the sedilia to change into the chasuble. Then he begins Mass as usual. During the Epistle (Philippians 2:5-11) all kneel during the during the verse “that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow...” After the Tract, the Passion according to St. Matthew (chapters 26 and 27) is recited or sung by three, usually, deacons. The faithful hold their blessed palms in their hands as a sign of protest to the atrocities our Lord endured and as a reminder that it is through His death on the Cross that He is victorious over death and sin. It begins with the anointing at Bethany where Judas decided to betray Christ. It includes the recount of the Last Supper to show the link between the institution of the most Holy Eucha- ristSacrifice of the Massand the Sacrifice of the Cross. It concludes with the burial of our Lord. Following the Passion, the Gospel of the Mass is sung with the usual ceremonies. The passage comes from the end of chapter 27 of St. Matthew’s Gospel which recounts the guarding of the tomb by soldiers. It is ironic that the enemies of our Lord provided the certainty of His Resurrection by attempting to disprove it. The rest of the Mass continues as usual including the Last Gospel.
Some Notes: The color violet is used throughout the ceremo- nies. If there are Deacon and Subdeacon, they do not wear their dalmatic and tunic (symbols of joy) but folded chasubles. These garments pre-date the dalmatic and tunic and are used on penitential days to show the sorrow for sin predominating the Liturgy during those days. They are chasubles folded up in the front. The Subdeacon removes his in order to sing the Epistle. The Deacon removes his before singing the Gospel and replaces it with a broad stole which he wears until after Communion.

Holy Thursday
by Canon William Avis
Here follows the third in a series of articles giving an introduc- tion to the pre-1955 Holy Week Ceremonies.
The Mass
The Mass of Holy Thursday commemorates the institution of the most Holy Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the Priesthood. For this reason after the Priest intones the Gloria, the organ is played and the bells are rung in jubilation. However as we are entering the mystery of our Lord’s suffering and death, after that Gloria, they are both silenced until the eve of His Resurrection.
The Epistle lesson comes from I Corinthians 11: 20-32 in which St. Paul the Apostle exhorts us to receive most Holy Communion with holy dispositions and the punishment of those who receive It unworthily.
The Gospel lesson comes from John 13:1-15 which recounts how our Lord washed the feet of His Apostles. By this act of charity and humility, our Lord shows to His Apostles the dispo- sitions necessary to perform their sacred ministry. It is an act of common hospitality but also a sacred rite by which the ministers of the Levitical Priesthood prepared themselves to offer the sac- rifices in the Temple. The feet are the part of the body which touches the earth, and to wash them symbolizes the detachment from this world and purity of body, hence our Lord’s reply to St. Peter: “He that is washed needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly.”

Holy Thursday
by Canon William Avis
Here follows the fourth in a series of articles giving an intro- duction to the pre-1955 Holy Week Ceremonies.
The Procession and Adoration
Following the Mass, the chalice containing the Consecrated Host is carried in procession to an altar of repose. There the Chalice is placed into an urn (representing our Lord’s suffering and death) or into a taber-
nacle. The procession recalls how our Lord left the Cenacle to go to the Garden of Olives accompanied by His Apostles. Ado- ration is held before the altar of repose until midnight, the hour in which our Lord
was arrested and His Apostles fled.
After having placed the most Blessed Sac- rament at the altar of repose, the clergy retire to the sanctuary
After the Gospel or sermon, the Credo is sunga mark of great feastdays.
The Canon of the Mass has a proper Communicantes, Hanc Igitur and form of Consecration in commemoration of the day in which our Lord instituted the great Sacraments of the Eucha- rist and Priesthood. The priest consecrates two hosts this day; one for this Mass and another for the Mass of the Presanctified of Good Friday. This shows the oneness of the Mass and the Cross. After Holy Communion, this second Host is placed in a chalice and covered by a pall, paten and white veil which is bound together with a white ribbon. Our Lord referred His Pas- sion many times to a chalice from which He must drink, and so the chalice symbolizes His sufferings. The veil reminds us that our Lord’s Passion is a mystery—a truth which we cannot fully understand. The ribbon reminds us of how our Lord was bound with ropes and chains and led to Caiphas, Pontius Pilate, Herod and finally Calvary.
The rest of the Mass is done coram Sanctissimo, which means before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. The Sacred Ministers then do many genuflections and take care not to turn their backs to the Blessed Sacrament still present upon the altar. The Mass concludes as usual with Post-Communion prayer, Ite missa est, blessing, and finally the Last Gospel. At the words Et Verbum caro factum est, instead of simply genuflecting straight forward, all turn to the Blessed Sacrament to make this genuflection.
for Vespers. This important canonical hour consists of five Psalms (Pss. 115, 119, 139, 140 & 141) and the Magnificat (Lk. 1: 46-55). It concludes with the Miserere (Ps. 50). Vespers was always considered as a solemn moment on any important day of the Church calendar, and was foreshadowed in the Old Testa- ment by the evening sacrifice and offering of incense in the Temple of Jerusalem.
Stripping of the Altars
Following Vespers,
the altar and sanctu-
ary are stripped.
While the choir
chants the Psalm 21,
a prophesy concern-
ing the sufferings of
Christ, the sacred
ministers and servers remove the altar linens and coverings, showing thereby the interruption of the sacrifice because there will be no Mass the next day. The credence is left bare and the housel is removed from the Communion rail. The only things left are the candles extinguished and the looming figure of the veiled cross upon the altar. The cross, foretold in prophecies, yet hidden from our understanding, will be unveiled before our eyes the next day, revealing the sufferings and death of Christ and redemption of mankind.

Impleta sunt quæ concinit That which the prophet-king of old David fideli carmine Hath in mysterious verse foretold,

Good Friday
by Canon William Avis
Here follows the fifth in a series of articles giving an introduc- tion to the pre-1955 Holy
Week Ceremonies.
The solemn service of Good Friday could be divided into four parts: the Roman Office, Sol- emn Prayers, Veneration of the Cross, and the Mass of the Presancti- fied. Generally, the whole liturgy of this day
is called the Mass of the Presanctified even after it was sup- pressed from the Roman Rite in 1955. Interesting enough, St. John XXIII ordered that the pre-1955 rite be observed at the Vatican so that he could be spared having to endure the 1955 “restored/reformed” rite. This is the same pope that sent away from Rome the main liturgist involved in the changes to the Holy Week ceremonies and later in the development of the New Rite of Mass, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini.
The Roman Office
At the appointed time, the clergy process to the altar, which is bare except the Cross, veiled in either black or violet, and the unlit candles. The celebrant enters in black Mass vestments; the deacon and subdeacon
are clad in folded chasubles, not wear- ing dalmatic and tu- nicvestments of joyon this day of extreme grief and mourning.
Arriving at the altar,
they lay prostrate be-
fore it. Meanwhile
the servers place a single linen cloth on the altar, folded in such a way as to cover only the back part of the
mensa (altar table). The missal is placed on the epistle corner. Afterwards, the priest ascends to the altar, and a reading from the Prophet Osee (6:1-6) concerning the death and resurrection of Christ is sung. Then follows a Tract (Habacuc 3: 2-3) and a prayer expressing the punishment of Judas and the reward of the Good Thief and our desire for mercy like the Good Thief. A second reading (Exodus 12: 1-11) recounting the Passover Lamb is sung re- minding us that Christ is the true Lamb of God. Another Tract (Psalm 139: 2-10,14) is sung concerning the persecution of Christ by His enemies.
The Passion according to St. John is chanted in the same man- ner as the Passion on Palm Sunday. This Apostle’s account is used this day since he was personally present at the Crucifixion of our Lord. The last portion, concerning the Burial of our Lord, is used as the Gospel and sung in the manner of Requiem Masses, that is, without candles nor incense.
The Solemn Prayers
On this day, the Church
implores God’s mercy for
all mankind. The sacred
ministers stand on the
Epistle side, like they do
for all such prayers. After
the celebrant gives a brief
exhortation, then the dea-
con calls all to kneel down (genuflection) in silence. After a few moments the subdeacon calls all to stand. The celebrant sings the prayer. These are the intentions for each of the prayers: the entire Church, the Pope, the clergy and faithful, the catechumens, those in affliction or danger, the heretics and schismatics, the Jews, and finally the pagans. There has been much controversy about these prayers, and in 2008 Pope Bene- dict XVI promulgated a revised prayer for the Jews. The Church prays, not to castigate anyone, but that redemptive work of Christ might benefit all.

During the last couple of prayers, the servers prepare the place for the veneration of the Cross. On the steps before the altar, they spread out a violet carpet on which is placed a violet cush- ion. Over the cushion they spread a white silk veil. Violet is a royal color, and the carpet and cushion are what kings would use when their subjects paid homage to them. The white veil is reminiscent of the burial cloth of our Lord.
The Veneration of the Cross
After the last prayer, the celebrant and his ministers remove their chasubles. The deacon takes the veiled Cross from the altar and gives it to the celebrant waiting on the Epistle side. The top portion of the Cross is unveiled, and the celebrant sings, “Behold the wood of the Cross.” At “come, let us adore,” all kneel. This is repeated two more times as the Cross is gradually unveiled and moves closer to the center of the altar. This revealing in stages is symbolic how the Redemption was made known, first by the Prophets and the Old Law, then by Christ Himself, and finally by the Crucifixion itself on Mount Golgotha. After
the Cross is fully
revealed, the cele-
brant places it on
the cushion, and
the clergy and serv-
ers remove their
shoes. They go in
cortege to venerate
the Cross, kneeling
down three times as
they approach it. The third time, they get down to kiss the Feet of the Crucifix. The faithful then come forward to kiss the

Popule meus, quid feci tibi? Aut in quo contrivi tibi?
Responde Mihi.
My people, what have I done to thee?
Or in what have I grieved

Good Friday
by Canon William Avis
Here follows the sixth in a series of articles giving an introduc- tion to the pre-1955 Holy Week Ceremonies.
The Procession
Towards the end of the veneration of the Cross, the servers light the candles of the altar, and prepare it for the Mass of the Presanctified. After the veneration of the Cross, the deacon or celebrant takes the
Cross back to the altar. Then a procession goes to the altar of repose. The most Blessed Sacrament is incensed and then brought back to the main altar in procession like on Holy Thurs- day. Instead of the hymn Pange Lingua which is used for all Eucharistic Processions the Vexilla Regis is sung. This hymn was composed by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) in honor of the Holy Cross. When the procession reaches the main altar, the Blessed Sacrament is again incensed, and then begins immedi- ately the Mass of the Presanctified.
The Mass of the Presancti- fied
This being the day in which our Lord sacrificed His life on the cross, Holy Church re- frames from offering the Sacri- fice of the Mass. Instead she offers a Sacred Host conse- crated the day before, hence the name of “Mass of the Pre- sanctified”. The Byzantine Rite observes this ceremony for all the weekdays of Lent; the Church of Milan (Ambrosian Rite) does so on all Fridays of Lent, but the Church of Rome (Roman Rite) only on Good Friday.
After placing the Sacred Host on the corporal, wine and water are put in the chalice. The celebrant incenses the altar and washes his hands like at the offertory of the Mass. He says the prayer In spiritu humilitatis, and then turning to the faithful he says the Oratre fratres to which no response is given. Then he sings the Our Father in the ferial tone (like at Requiems) and then says the Libera nos out loud. He elevates the Sacred Host for all to adore, and lowering It, he fractures It and places a Sa- cred Particle into the unconsecrated wine. After a prayer, he then consumes the Sacred Host and drinks the wine. The ablu- tions follow, and the clergy return to the sacristy.
A great sense of loss prevails in the church. After the celebrant has consumed the Sacred Host, we are placed in the same grief
as Our Lady, St. John and St. Mary Magdalen. Our Jesus is taken away from us. Our temple, both the church building and ourselves, are now desolate. We do not have the joy of receiv- ing our Lord and shall not rejoice in His Presence until the Res- urrection. The practice of not distributing Holy Communion on Good Friday goes back many centuries and was observed in both the West (Roman Rite until 1955) and East (Byzantine Rite even to this day).
Afterwards the evening office of Vespers is recited in much the same way as on Holy Thursday.
O crux, ave, spes unica, Hoc Passionis tempore Piis adauge gratiam, Reisque dele crimina.
Hail Cross! Thou only hope of man,
Hail on this holy Passion- day!

To saints increase the grace they have;

Holy Saturday
by Canon William Avis
Here follows the seventh in a series of articles giving an intro- duction to the pre-1955 Holy Week Ceremonies.
Blessing of the new Fire
In antiquity the Church use to bless
fire every evening in order to light
the candles used a Vespers. This
ancient usage is now observed only
at the Easter Vigil. Celebrant, in
violet cope, blesses a fire drawn from
a rock with three prayers calling to
mind the Easter joy at Christ’s resurrection, the Supernatural light of God that illuminates, warms and drives out the darkness of evil. The thurifer lights coals for the thurible from the blessed fire. The Celebrant then blesses the five grains of in- cense that will be used in the blessing of the Easter Candle.
Procession with the Arundo and Blessing of Easter Candle
After the blessing of fire and incense, the deacon changes into a white dalmatic and takes the Arundo. This object is a reed decorated with flowers on which a triple candle is attached. The reed represents the Passion of our Lord for He was beaten with reeds during His scourging. Three candles fused together at the base and branching out makes the triple candle symbolic of the most Holy Trinity. The flowers remind us of the spiritual fecun- dity of the divine grace won for us by Christ.
The procession enters the church, and when the deacon is in- side, he lowers the Arundo so that the acolyte can light one of the candles. The deacon raises the reed and sings “Lumen Christithe light of Christ.” He does this two more times as the procession advances to the altar. It represents the divine revela- tion of the Three Persons in One God. After the third time, the deacon hands the Arundo to the acolyte. The procession then goes to the lectern prepared on the Gospel side where the Easter Candle is located.
After incensing the book, the deacon sings the Exsultet, the blessing of the Easter Candle. At a certain point, he stops and goes to the candle with the acolyte who has the blessed incense. He af- fixes the grains in the form of a cross. These incense grains represent the five now glorious Wounds of our Lord. He continues to sing, “Receive, Oh holy Father, the evening sacrifice of this incense, which holy Church presents to Thee by the hands of Thy ministers in the solemn offering of this candle of wax...which the glowing fire enkindles to the glory of God.” He stops again and lights the Easter candle from the Arundo. He continues to sing, “Which, although divided into parts, suffers no loss from its light being borrowed...” Here the sacristans light the lamps of the church with the fire from the Easter Can-
dle. The deacon concludes the chant.
The Easter Candle represents our Lord in His glorious Body after the resurrection: the waxHis Sacred Humanity, the wickHis Soul, the flameHis Divinity. This candle will be
present in the sanctuary from the Easter Vigil to Ascension Thursday. On that day it is extinguished symbolizing that our Lord is no longer present in His glorified Humanity on earth. In many places it is customary for the Faithful to bring the blessed fire from the Easter Candle to their homes. They use it for their devotions and conserve it until the Feast of the Ascension.
Following the blessing of the Easter Candle, there are twelve prophecies. The celebrant removes his cope and puts on the chasuble and maniple. He goes to the epistle corner of the altar and begins to read the prophecies. Meanwhile lectors go before the altar and sing these sublime passages from Sacred Scripture. This usage of the celebrant reading silently at the altar those things sung by various ministers in the sanctuary mystically represents that all (history, divine revelation, the workings of grace) was foreseen and ordained before the beginning of time by the Divine Providence of God.
The twelve prophecies, with the commentary given by the collects that follow them, provide us with a rapid sketch of the whole of the Old Testament history in the light of the Paschal mystery which they both recall and foretell. They proclaim the regeneration in Christ: the new creation, the new ark of salva- tion, the new Passover, life restored to dry bones, and the shar- ing of Christians in the life of the Church.
The first is from Genesis (1: 1-31; 2: 1-2): God, who created all things good, by redemption restored them to their original beauty and , by baptism, re-opens paradise to man.
The second is from Genesis (chs. 5, 6& 8): Noah, who was at the head of humanity sacred by God, is a figure of Christ, and Noah’s ark is a figure of the Church which saves us from the condemnation of the world after sin.
The third is from Genesis (22: 1-19): Isaac offered in sacrifice and restored by God to Abraham, symbolizes Christ who, by His resurrection from the dead, becomes the first-born of many brethren. The ancient promise is fulfilled: baptism, by continu- ally increasing the number of believers, makes Abraham “the father of all nations.”
The fourth is from Exodus (14:24-31; 15:1): The passage of the Red Sea which delivered the children of Israel and brought them into the promised land is a figure of baptism which frees the catechumens from the yoke of Satan and brings them into the Church.
The fifth (Isaias 54:17; 55:1-11): the Church sees in Isaias’s prophecy both a declaration of the new covenant and a hidden promise of baptism and the Eucharist.
The sixth (Baruch 3: 9-38): Supernatural wisdom is a free gift of God; Christians receive a share of it. They are fortunate to be able to regulate their lives and thoughts by the light fur- nished to them by the Church on God’s behalf.
The seventh (Ezechiel 37: 1-14): Ezechiel’s awe-inspiring vision, those dry bones which come to life to form a new Israel, signified Easter which brings it to pass through the resurrection of the Son of God “the first-born from among the dead.”

Holy Saturday
by Canon William Avis
Here follows the eighth in a series of articles giving an intro- duction to the pre-1955 Holy Week Ceremonies.
The tenth (Exodus 12: 1-11): All who have been baptized shall eat the flesh of the Lamb of God of which the Paschal Lamb is the type which is truly fulfilled at the communion of the baptized.
The eleventh (Deuteronomy
31: 22-30): The Church, addressing the newly baptized mem-
bers, makes her own Moses’s last solemn entreaty to the people of Israel to remain faithful to God.
The twelfth (Daniel 3: 1-24): This is a last and eloquent appeal to fidelity, to the witness of martyrdom if need be, after the ex- ample of the three youths thrown into fiery furnace for refusing to kneel before the idol and deny their God.
Blessing of the Font
After the last prophecy, the procession goes to the Baptismal Font led by the Easter Candle (symbolic of the Pillar of Fire that led the Hebrews through the Red Sea). The choir sings the Tract Sicut Cervus (Ps. 41: 2-4). Arriv- ing at the Baptistery, the priest says a prayer about the thirst of Faith that leads to baptism. Going to the Font, he says a prayer that leads to the Preface by which the water is blessed. The Preface expresses the creation and separation of the waters at the begin- ning of time, the rejuvenating power of Baptism, liberation from the evil one, and our Lord’s miracle at Cana and Baptism in the Jordan. Towards the end, the priest dips the Easter Candle three times into the water reminiscent of the three days our Lord was in the tomb. Afterwards the celebrant or other additional priests
sprinkle the people with the water.
The celebrant consecrates the Baptismal Water by pouring into it Oil of the Catechumens and Sacred Chrism. He then adminis- ters Baptism if there be catechumens to be baptized.
Litany of Saints
Following the blessing of the Font, the procession goes back to the altar. The choir sings the Litany of Saints. When the cele- brant arrives at the altar, he prostrates before it. Midway through the litany, he goes to the sacristy to prepare for Holy Mass. The servers light the candles on the altar.
The Mass
While the choir finishes the Litany, the celebrant begins Mass with the prayers at the foot of the altar and incenses the altar. After he intones the Gloria, the organ is played and the bells are rung. Meanwhile the servers remove the mournful violet veils
from the images of the saints, expressing the joy at the Resur- rection.
After the Collect, the Epistle (Col. 3: 1-4) is sung. In it St. Paul the Apostle reminds us who are baptized that we have en- tered a new life in Christ and have received a pledge of our fu- ture resurrection.
Then all stand as the celebrant intones the joyful song of the Lord which has been banished from our ears since Septua- gesima Sunday, the Alleluia. He does so at the epistle corner, and the choir repeats it. He repeats it a second and third time, singing on a higher note each time. Then all sit as the choir sings the first verse of Psalm 117 and then all of Psalm 116.
All stand again for the Gospel procession. The acolytes do not carry their candles, but incense is used. The passage comes from Matthew 28:1-7 wherein the holy women go to the Tomb as it dawns on Easter Sunday. They find the Tomb already empty and an Angel who announces to them the Resurrection.
After the Gospel, the Creed is omitted and the offertory be- gins. During the Canon of the Mass, there is a proper Hanc Igitur which is said throughout Easter week and is used also in Pentecost week. In it the priest recommends especially to God the newly baptized. Finally the Consecration of the Mass oc- curs. We have been deprived of Christ’s presence since Good Friday, and now the joy of the Resurrection has brought Him back to us. So as to hasten the moment of Holy Communion, the Agnus Dei and Pax are omitted. At Communion time, we rejoice to be again united to our Lord.
Following Holy Communion, the choir sings Vespers. All the great Feastdays of the Church begin the evening before with this service and neither shall Easter be deprived of its Vespers. Due to the length of the Vigil, it is shortened to one Psalm (Ps. 116) and the Magnificat (Lk. 1: 46-55) during which the altar, clergy and people are incensed. Vespers and the Mass are con- cluded with the same prayer (Post-Communion), the Ite missa est to which a double Alleluia is attached, the Blessing and Last Gospel.
Some customs related to Holy Saturday
In many places there is the blessing of food baskets on this day. The baskets usually included all those food-stuffs that were formally not permitted to be eaten during Lent: butter, cheese, eggs and meat. Since for over eight hundred years the Easter Vigil was celebrated in the morning and was over by noon, the Lenten Fast was also over by noon, and the baskets were blessed at that time. Some places still observe this bless- ing at this hour.
Fire was blessed during the Vigil, and the faithful would bring lanterns to transport this sacramental to their homes for devo- tional use. Likewise they would bring home some of the Easter Water to use as Holy Water.
When the Easter Vigil was held in the morning, and when the faithful lived near the church, the clergy would spend the after- noon going through the neighborhood blessing houses. This custom harkens back to the Exodus where the Hebrews “blessed” their homes with the blood of the Passover Lamb.
The history of the Time of the Easter Vigil is an interesting one.
When the Church was able to conduct her worship in a public fashion after the Edict of Milan which de- criminalized Christianity, the Easter Vigil in Rome began after the Hour of None (3pm). The Papal Liturgy was particularly long due to the many catechumens who would be baptized and confirmed and the Ordina- tions that were conferred during the Vigil. Also the 12 Prophecies, Epistle and Gospel were all chanted in Latin and Greek (an usage of the Papal Liturgy until late 1960's, although Pope Benedict XVI brought back that usage to some degree). The time that the Mass began was not fixed, but usually was around sunrise. Over time as Christianity spread, more of the faithful were baptized as infants. Confirmations were done when the Bishop was visiting a given parish, and Ordinations were more often conferred on other days. The Vigil became shorter. Also as time went on, the hour of beginning the Vigil became earlier and earlier, so that by the time of St. Thomas Aquinas (13th Century) most places began the Vigil in the morning. Eventu- ally a pope (I think it was St. Pius V) would forbid beginning the Easter Vigil (the same for the Mass on Holy Thursday and Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday) later than 12 noon. Some explanation for this development was the fasting laws. From Apostolic times until the 1950's, the Eucharistic fast consisted in not eating or drinking anything (no water either) from midnight until the moment of Communion. In the 1950's permission was given to have evening Masses, and the Eucharistic fast for those Masses was reduced to three hours from food and one hour from all liquids except water. Basically for around seven centuries the Easter Vigil was celebrated in the morning of Holy Saturday and was over by noon. The Lenten Fast ended at noon also, which began the custom in many places to bless Easter baskets around that time. This was how it was until 1955.
The leaders of the liturgical movement of the 1930's and 40's wanted to change the Liturgy and specifically the Holy Week ceremonies. Their final plan (which we can see from their writings, speeches and actions) was the New Rite of Mass promulgated by St. Paul VI in 1969. This is why the 1955 (1962) Holy Week ceremonies are substantially the same as in the New Rite. In the 1955 Holy Week the rubric says that the Vigil starts at a time that makes the Mass begin at midnight, but that the bishop may permit an earlier time in the evening. Several liturgists and theologians, such as Msgr Gromier, have pointed out that the time of mid- night is arbitrary because we do not know the hour of the Resurrection. At sunrise of Easter Sunday, when the angel had rolled back the sealed stone of the tomb, our Lord was already gone. There is no reason to think that Christ rose from the dead at midnight, especially because the way of calculating the days according to the Jews was based on sunset and not the hour of the clock. Christ could have resurrected anytime be- tween sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh has set the earliest time to begin the Vigil at 7:30pm, and some places (St. Boni- face) have special permission to start at 7pm.
In 2018, the Ecclesia Dei Commission granted permission for the traditional (that is before the 1950's) Holy Week Ceremonies. The commission granted this permission because of the disharmony between the Holy Week Ceremonies and the rest of the traditional Missal. Several scholars have asserted that the 1955 reform of Holy Week was the beginning of the New Rite. Since the pre-1955 Missal does not mention the time that the Mass starts, but only that the Vigil begins after None, the commission said that the Vigil is to start ac- cording to local diocesan regulations. It noted also that the Mass concludes with Vespers, and clerics are obliged to say Compline (a canonical hour of the breviary said after Vespers) before midnight.

Also to be noted, whether the Easter Vigil Mass is celebrated before or after midnight does not change the Sunday obligation. The Code of Canon Law states that the faithful fulfill their obligation to assist at Mass forSundaysandHolyDaysofObligationbygoingtoMassonthedayitselfortheeveningbefore. This,of course, does not mean that one cannot go to both the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses.