Sunday, March 23, 2008

Catechesis for Holy Saturday

The final Triduum presentation I do each year is a catechetical lesson on the Liturgy of Light, offered on Holy Saturday morning to all the children of the parish. First we read the greeting that the priest offers to all those assembled at the Easter Vigil:

Dear Friends in Christ, on this most holy night, when our Lord Jesus Christ passed from death to life, the Church invites her children throughout the world to come together in vigil and prayer.
This is the Passover of the Lord: if we honor the memory of his death and resurrection by hearing his word and celebrating his mysteries, then we may be confident that we shall share his victory over death and live with him for ever in God.
Then we read the prayer for blessing the Paschal candle, using our simple model of the candle to meditate more deeply on the words. I invite the children to come forward to trace their thumbs on the candle and repeat the words of the prayer:
Christ yesterday and today,
The beginning and the end...

And Omega.
All time belongs to him,
And all the ages,
To him be glory and power
through every age for ever. Amen.

Then I light our model Paschal candle and tell the children about the prayer that the priest will say as he lights the candle during the Easter Vigil:

May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

Then we all sing: "Christ is Light, in him there is no darkness, come to him, and he will give you Light."

Then we form a line and process through the church, stopping three times to sing, just as they will at the Easter Vigil:
Christ our Light. Thanks be to God.

When we arrive in the place where we will celebrate together, I read them one of the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection (my favorite is when Mary Magdalene meets the Risen Christ but mistakes him for the gardener and doesn't recognize him until she hears him say her name), and I read one stanza of the Exsultet, explaining that during the Easter Vigil the whole, beautiful prayer will be sung:

Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Together, we sing, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice...!"

Then I explain that Christ's Light, the Light of the Resurrection, is not something he keeps to himself. He wants to share it with all of us! Each one of us received his light at our baptisms. After this announcement, I call the first child forward to receive a candle.

Each child receives a candle, lit from the model Paschal candle. After each one has had a chance to savor the light for as long as he or she wants, I place it near the model Paschal candle.

Receive the Light of Christ.

After all the children have been called by name and each has received a candle, we spend time in silence, just enjoying the beauty of all those candles. Then we sing every light song we know. After singing, I read the final stanza of the Exsultet:
May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

We finish up by singing, "Bright Morning Star Arising" and then every Alleluia we know.

From a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd presentation developed by Sofia Cavalletti and her collaborators at her catechetical center in Rome.


clairity said...

This is a beautiful work. Thank you for sharing about it!

Suzanne said...

I hope some other catechists will be encouraged to try these lessons. As you can see by the children's faces, these sacred mysteries are essential for them. In two of the parishes I left, other catechists have carried on the Triduum tradition.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."