Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

The last day of Lent is finally here and we know the celebration of Easter is at hand. Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, is a day of preparation, but it only lasts until dusk. After sundown, in the Anglican, Catholic, and increasingly, Lutheran traditions, the liturgy of the Great Vigil of Easter is celebrated. The prescribed lessons for this service recount the great stories from the Old Testament of God's promises, including the Creation, Noah and the ark, and the parting of the Red Sea.

Traditionally, the service may include baptisms and reception of new members, proceeds to the proclamation of the resurrection and ends with the celebration of the first Easter Eucharist. The day begins somberly, recalling the events of Good Friday, but ends in joy.

All the sacrifice is ended,
Breathed his body’s latest breath,
And his human soul hath wended
Where the weary rest beneath;
Christ's own body comprehended
All the human law of death!

Yet not there his soul remaineth
Nor his body in the tomb:
Lo! what sudden glory gaineth
Quick dominion o’er the gloom!
Yea, o’er death and hell he reigneth
Bursting back the gates of doom!

Manifold the attestation
Comrades tell the marvel o’er,
And the soldiers from their station,
And the angels at the door,
And his own Word’s revelation,
“Lo! I live for evermore.”

Hail, thou morn of resurrection,
Primal holy Easter Day!
Now the hours of deep dejection
’Neath the night-clouds’ bleak array,
Foes’ reviling, friends’ defection,
In thy glory pass away!

Savior! in our night of weeping
Tell us of the joyful morn,
Guard our souls, their vigil keeping
In the hours of hate and scorn
Raise us falling, wake us sleeping,
Till our Easter day be born.

Samuel J. Stone, 1866
Caspar Ett, 1840

This appears to be an in-between hymn, starting in the tomb and ending in Easter glory. Author Samuel Stone is known for a much more familar hymn.

Revisiting an earlier hymn presented here, I've come to recognize that O'er the shoreless waste of waters was probably intended for the Easter Vigil. Bishop How's original last verse for this baptism hymn connected the resurrection with the promises of the Old Testament. (I think my revision still works for the rest of the year.)

P.S. The painting above, The Angel is Opening Christ's Tomb, is by 17th century Dutch artist Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp.

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: Easter Eve
One (Calendar) Year Ago: Christopher Smart

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