1. Don’t rehearse the Easter Vigil
Almost everywhere, parishes are planning to rehearse the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. I know this is going to be hard to hear, but we have to stop making Holy Saturday a work day. It is a day of prayer, reflection, and fasting (see RCIA 185). In the Eastern tradition, this day is called the Great Sabbath and honors Christ “resting” in the tomb. But it is not a day of mourning. Rather it is a day of watchful expectation. Liturgist and theologian Alexander Schmemann links Jesus resting in the tomb to God resting on the seventh day of creation: “Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.”
Schedule your Easter Vigil rehearsal for the Saturday before Palm Sunday or another day during Holy Week. Also, see: The Easter Vigil—should you rehearse the catechumens?
The RCIA says that the elect should observe a fast on Holy Saturday (see 185). In solidarity, the entire parish can be invited to fast along with them. I wrote earlier:
The paschal fast has no sense of penance to it. It is totally focused on preparing for the feast. It begins at sundown on Holy Thursday and is broken by the celebration of the Easter Vigil. For the elect, the paschal fast is not only a reduction in food intake, but also a time of quiet, during which they “refrain from their usual activities, spend their time in prayer and reflection” (RCIA 185). You will want to help them plan ahead so, if possible, they can take time off from work and get all of their Easter preparations completed beforehand. As far as possible, the paschal fast should be a time of intense focus on what the elect are about to celebrate.
By now, the elect should be experts at prayer. Ask them to begin the day with morning prayer (liturgy of the hours) in their home domestic churches. Or schedule an early morning video prayer that the entire parish can participate in. Assuming you have already celebrated the Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer, ask the elect to pray the Lord’s Prayer (alone or with their household) in the morning, at noon, and just before leaving home for the Easter Vigil.
If you have not already celebrated the Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer, plan to celebrate it during the Preparation Rites (see below).
The RCIA includes a series of preparation rites on Holy Saturday. These rites are listed as optional, and I would suggest you make every effort to celebrate them. They are a powerful spiritual preparation of the elect.
You can see more about celebrating these rites here: A brief primer on the Holy Saturday RCIA Preparation Rites.
5. Do not make the elect choose baptismal or confirmation names
It is a common misunderstanding that the elect must choose new names for initiation. The opposite is the case. The U.S. bishops have said that for the elect, “there is to be no giving of a new name” (RCIA 33.4). This applies to both a baptismal name and a confirmation name. The elect are to be baptized and confirmed by their given name, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church says is sacred:
God calls each one by name. Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it. (2158)
You can read more here: Do you need to have a saint’s name for baptism or confirmation?
6. Anoint the elect, if necessary
If you have not previously celebrated an anointing with the elect, you might anoint them within the Holy Saturday rituals. This is not included in the RCIA text however. Liturgist and pastor, Fr. Paul Turner says:
I think you could anoint them here. It’s true that the US bishops called for the omission of the anointing on Holy Saturday, but the new missal seems to have reinstated it. In any event, catechumens may be anointed more than once during their time of preparation. (RCIA 98)
You can find the anointing ritual at RCIA 98. If you want to celebrate the rite of anointing before Holy Saturday, see this article: Five times to anoint a catechumen during the RCIA process.
7. Contemplate your own faith journey
I am mostly speaking to myself here. In the midst of Triduum, with all we have to worry about, we can fail to pay attention to our own prayer and preparation. The Triduum is not the same once-in-a-lifetime event for us as it is for the elect, but it should still be an annual “big deal” in our own faith journeys. Perhaps we might spend time reflecting on the icon of Jesus’s descent into Hades. The Eastern Rite vespers includes this prayer:
Today Hades cries out groaning:
“I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary.
“He came and destroyed my power.
“He shattered the gates of brass.
“As God, He raised the souls I had held captive.”
Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord!
How are you getting ready for Holy Saturday? Do any of them need to be adjusted to make Holy Saturday even holier? Share your thoughts in the comments below.