I thought I would never make it. :( I went to Dipolog City for a while to look after my chickens and to feed them. Homebound, it wass past 5 when the jeepney started to run. The church directory says that 6 Pm will be the start of the Easter Vigil Mass. It was 6:15 already when I arrived in Manukan. I thought I will miss the completeness of that evening's liturgy.
But thank God, I arrived on time. The Mass hadn't started yet and the people are in the front of the church around the bonfire that the altar boys had set up for the blessing of the fire. They had brought a huge candle, which is called the Paschal candle. Pins are also brought in. The priest then leads the ritual and inserts the pin through the wax that was specifically designed with Greek letters and a cross and symbols. I noticed that he pushed in a pin to these letters and symbols while saying "Si Cristo Ang Alpha ug ang Omega" (Christ is the Alpha and Omega). I found out that what he is actually saying are the following:
Christ yesterday and today,
the Beginning and the End,
the Alpha and Omega.
His are the times and ages:
To Him be glory and dominion
Through all ages of eternity. Amen
Black Saturdays are memorable for me. It is the part of the Triduum when the Church commemorates beforehand the victory of Christ in Easter the following day. Christ, being the Light of the World, was proclaimed in the ritual of the blessing of the fire. The bonfire will be blessed with holy water, then the huge candle will be the first to be lighted by it, following the candles of all the faithful present.
The inside of the church will remain dim with only candles to light the assembly. The "Exsultet" will be sung by a deacon or the priest himself. The Exsultet is an ancient song that invites all the heavenly powers and the faithful to rejoice in the victory of the Lamb. After that, diverse readings will be read by assigned readers (in our locale, the apostles had read them).
I felt a nostalgic feeling in seeing the liturgy right before my eyes. It reminds me of the truth of the Christian essentialness, and the connectedness of the liturgy to the liturgy of the past, when the Church of the past ages is celebrating the same rite but without any electricity at all, much more the Church under persecution. Symbols are rich when they lead to the divine especially to the very core of the Christian faith. for me, the Church had done a good job in shepherding catholic souls in every age, offering them the memory of the Master through the most holy rites and liturgies.
I felt very proud of the people, too. The catholic faithful is very participative of that night's activity. They patiently held their candles through the service and listened to the long readings. The children are not unruly, too. Probably the children thought it was too dark to frolic in the church, and they're maybe puzzled what the adults are doing. Unlike yesterday, the church is filled to the extreme as similar to Christmas night. Every grown-up had his or her candle, and bottles, too, for the blessing of the water.
After the readings, the Gloria is sung, the church bells are ringing and in a flicker of an eye...
light flooded the church.
There is a symbolical meanign of this. This night, Christ explores the recessses of the darkness in the heart of the earth, searching our lost parents, Adam and Eve, and restoring them to the light. The sleepers are awaken, and Christ shone on them.
The blessing of the water takes place after the homily (or the general intercessory prayers). The faithful had brought their own bottles for the blessing. This is personally requested by the parish priest in fear that the people might dip in for the church's own jar of holy water that is being blessed alongside the rest.