Ant. The chief priests and the Pharisees made the sepulchre secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Prayer. O Almighty God, we are keeping the vigil of the resurrection of your Son with eager expectation; admit us then we pray you, into the glory of that same resurrection. Through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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“At the moment of the death of Jesus the land around Jerusalem was shaken by an earthquake. In the convulsions of the earth many of the tombs of the dead were opened. St Matthew reports that the bodies of many of the saints came forth and appeared in Jerusalem. The centurions in charge of the Roman soldiers was struck by these wonderful happenings and cried out, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God’ (Mark 15:39).


At the same time the veil of the Temple was rent in the middle from top to bottom. Whether this veil be the one in place before the sanctuary or the inner veil placed before the Holy of Holies, in either case it is possible to see in the rending of the veil a symbol of the fact that the worship of the one true God was now open to everyone.


The earthquake and the rending of the veil of the Temple were divine signs of the work of salvation accomplished by Jesus. God may have worked them directly Himself, or He may have used natural causes. The earthquake may have been due to the laws of nature and the veil may have been torn by the strong wind that dispels the black sirocco which covered Jerusalem at this time of the year. But, if natural causes were operative in this instance, the timing was providential, due to God’s infinite knowledge and power.


Meanwhile the leaders of the Jews were afraid that Jesus and the two thieved might not die in time for the bodies to be removed from the crosses before the Sabbath day began at sunset. They asked permission of Pilate to have the legs of the three condemned men broken to hasten their death. The permission was granted. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves. But when they came to Jesus they saw that He was already dead. To make sure of this one of the soldiers opened the side of Jesus with a lance. Blood and water came out of the wound. St John points out that this was done so that two prophecies might be fulfilled in Jesus.

In the book of Exodus (12:46) the Israelites were ordered not to break any of the bones of the Paschal Lamb. On the Cross the bones of Jesus were not broken.

The prophet Zacharias [Zechariah], in a Messianic passage, had said in the name of God: ‘And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of prayers: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced’ (Zacharias 12:12).

Thus, in the Crucifixion of Jesus St John sees the new Paschal Lamb, Whose bones are not broken, and the God of Israel, Whose flesh is pierced and perceived as pierced by His people. It might be mentioned also that Christian thought has always looked on the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus as symbols of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Baptism through which the power of the Cross for salvation comes to men.


Meanwhile Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man and a member of the Sanhedrin, a man who had come to love Jesus, went to Pilate and asked permission to take the Body of Jesus down from the Cross and give it an honourable burial. Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead. He sent a centurion to make certain of the death of Jesus. When he had been officially informed of the death of Jesus he gave permission for the burial.

Joseph went to the Cross with Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin. Joseph carried linen cloths to wrap the Body of Jesus. Nicodemus brought with him about one hundred pounds of spices to perfume the Body and the tomb. At Calvary the Body was reverently lowered from the Cross and washed. Then it was transported to the tomb where it was wrapped in the cloths and the spices. After the burial Joseph, Nicodemus and the women who had accompanied them withdrew. A large stone had been rolled in place before the entrance to the tomb. The women who loved Jesus intended to return to the tomb on the day after the Sabbath with more spices and ointments to give the Body of Jesus a more fitting burial.


The following day – the Sabbath – the priests and the Pharisees remembered that Jesus had said that He would rise from the tomb on the third day after His death. They were afraid that the Apostles might steal the Body of Jesus and spread the false report that Jesus had risen as He had foretold. They went to Pilate and asked that a guard might be placed at the tomb to prevent such a trick. Pilate gave them a guard and they went and sealed the stone at the entrance to the tomb and set the guard to watch.


The Gospels do not tell us what the followers of Jesus did from Friday evening until Sunday morning. The Apostles, generally, seemed to have stayed in the upper room where they had celebrated the Paschal feast with Jesus. St John may have taken Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the home of some friends at Jerusalem. We may also imagine that the faithful women who had followed Jesus also stayed at the home of friends.

The hearts of all of them must have been filled with inexpressible sadness. Mary, His mother, no doubt retained her faith in Him. But her heart also will have been filled with grief at the violence of His passing. The others, even though they loved Him, must have been bewildered. The great teacher they had known, the kind wonderworker, Him Whom they had taken for the Messias, He was suddenly and ignominiously dead. With Him their own hopes must have died. Like people who wait forlornly for a lost opportunity they waited at Jerusalem, held there together by a common loss and emptiness.

The Apostles had expected to take part in the prosecution of a great cause. Now they had nothing to do. In a while perhaps the fishermen would return to their nets. And St Matthew, would he become again a tax-gatherer?” [To be continued at Easter]
- Martin J. Healy, S.T.D., 1959


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His flesh rots as you watch it, and his bare bones begin to show; when his soul is drawing near to the pit, and his life to the dwelling of the dead. (Job 33:21-22)

Christ became obedient for us
even unto death, death on a cross.

The one who rose higher than all the heavens to fill all things is none other than the one who descended. (Ephesians 4:10)

Let us contemplate with reverence the body of Christ taken down from the cross and buried in the tomb:

R. Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins, we adore you.

Christ our Saviour, like the grain of wheat fallen into the ground, you have known the reality of the grave:
- accompany us into the mystery of death. (R.)

Christ, buried in the tomb, your mother kept watch in faith:
- grant us to share in her hope. (R.)

Christ, new Adam, you descended into hell to deliver the just:
- bring to life those whom the Father has given you. (R.)

Christ, living for ever, we have been plunged with you into water and fire:
- raise us from death to life.

(Personal intentions)

Our Father…

Ever-living and all-powerful God, your only-begotten Son descended into the depths of the earth, from which he arose again in glory. Grant to your faithful, buried with him in baptism, to share his resurrection to eternal life, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


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Oh, how the old gold has tarnished, that gold so fine! The sacred stones now lie scattered at the corner of every street.

The sons of Zion, as precious as finest gold, Oh, reckoned now no better than earthenware pots made by the potter!

The very jackals give the breast, and suckle their young: but the daughters of my people have grown cruel like the ostriches of the desert.

The tongue of the baby at the breast sticks to his palate for thirst, little children go begging for bread; no one spares a scrap for them.

Those who used to eat only the best, now lie dying in the streets; those who were reared in the purple claw at the rubbish heaps.

The crimes of the daughter of my people have outdone the sins of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment, no time for a man to wring his hands.
- Lamentations 4:1-6


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“On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and death and on his Descent into Hell, and awaiting his Resurrection.

The Church abstains from the Sacrifice of the Mass, with the sacred table left bare, until after the solemn Vigil, that is, the anticipation by night of the Resurrection, when the time comes for paschal joys, the abundance of which overflows to occupy fifty days.

Holy Communion may only be given on this day as Viaticum.”
- Fr Richard


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I. “Such are the last words with which the Saviour, dying on the cross, accomplishes this day His sacrifice: such are the last sighs which the holy women and the beloved disciple gather from His dying lips; such the last instructions which they receive from their kind Master.

Thus it is that He leaves this earth, and that He leaves His dear disciples agitated equally by grief at losing Him, and by the profound mystery of this last utterance: ‘Consummatum est’? All is accomplished, as regards his Father’s justice, the malice of men, and His love.

Jesus Christ having nothing more to do for us on earth, the great sacrifice being offered, and all the ancient figures fulfilled; Jerusalem having filled up the measure of its fathers; all the oracles of the Prophets being explained, the true worship established, His Father’s glory vindicated, the course of His ministry ended; not being able to leave men any greater proofs of His love, He declares that all is accomplished: ‘Consummatum est.’ He bows His Head; He utters a loud cry to heaven; He dies, and gives back to his Father the life and soul which He had received from Him.

Look at this divine Saviour expiring on the cross, and looking to you alone as the reward of His sufferings; He dies your liberator, He dies in your stead; He dies in Time, in order that you may not die in Eternity; He dies because He loves you, He dies, because you do not love Him. Can your tenderness, your grief, your gratitude know any limits here? And are you not anathema if you love not Jesus Christ crucified?

II. Those who are looking upon Him dying say to Him: ‘Come down from the cross, and we will believe in You,’ but we ought to use quite different language towards Him.

‘It is because You are raised upon the cross, O my Saviour, it is because You are dying today for me, choosing this throne of ignominy on which to be our Victim and our Pontiff; it is for these very reasons that all our consolation is to believe in You, and to adore You as our mediator, and to consecrate to You what remains of our life.

Do not descend from this sacred wood, where You are the only hope of Your people. Rather draw us thither with You, as You have promised us; the more we see You saturated with reproaches, the more our faith is increased, our hope strengthened, our love inflamed.

Can so much pain and suffering offered for us, be of no avail? – Would You have redeemed our souls at such a great price, if You had been willing to let them perish? – And would You have died such a death of ignominy, if we were not by sharing in Your suffering, to become participators one day in the glory of our immortality?”
- Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905


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Be mindful, O Lord, of this people of yours, for whose sake our Lord Jesus Christ did not shrink from the hands of his enemies and the agony of the cross: who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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