Saturday, April 8, 2023

The Day of Gloom and the Coming of the Light

Paolo Veronese, The Dead Christ Supported By Angels
Italian, c. 1587-1589
Berlin, Gemäldegalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

On a typical Holy Saturday the church is quiet, the tabernacle empty, the altar stripped. People come for services such as Tenebrae, made up of readings, songs and symbolic acts such as the snuffing out of candles or for Confession to ask God for forgiveness.

 Basically, the prevailing mood is quiet, a little gloomy even, but with a hint of excitement nonetheless.

Underneath it all is a sense of expectation.  And, in the evening, as darkness descends, we gather (or perhaps watch on the net or on TV) to celebrate the Easter Vigil, the Great Vigil, in which the darkness of the tomb is turned to the light of resurrection.

As the massive newly carved and lit Paschal Candle is carried down the aisle of the darkened church we will be confronted with a symbolic image that has come down to us from remote centuries, for the light represents the Risen Christ.  As we light our individual candles from the One Candle the church gradually fills with light.  What was obscure and gloomy just moments ago can be seen clearly.  It is a magnificent symbol of the Resurrection, of the share we each have in it and of the effect that spreading that light can have on the world.  

Deacon Singing the Exultet 
From  an Exultet Roll
Italian (Montecassino), c. 1072
In this scene he gestures toward the Paschal Candle, which is being incensed

For more information on the images that relate to both the day of waiting and of the Paschal Candle, please click on the following:

The Harrowing of Hell here

The Dead Christ in the Tomb here

Easter Vigil and the Paschal Candle here

©  M. Duffy, 2015, updated 2020 and 2021 and 2022

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