The Night-watch of the Resurrection begins with the Church totally dark to symbolize the tomb. One candle is lit - the Easter or Paschal Candle which will be lit for every Mass until Pentecost Sunday. Then the light from that Candle is passed to the individual candles the congregation hold and from pew to pew light filters into the Church as the procession begins three times the celebrant chanting "Lumen Christi" or, in the vernacular now, "Light of Christ" to which all answer "Thanks be to God" or "Deo Gratias" in the Latin service.
Once the celebrant reaches the altar the deacon places the Paschal Candle in its permanent holder and the Easter Proclamation begins. Following is the lengthy seven readings and seven accompanying responsorial psalms or readings, all from the Old Testament to symbolize the lengthy time those who were loyal to the Old Covenant spent in Limbo before being released to Heaven by Christ's Death. It was during the three days in the tomb that Christ "descended to the dead" to call all God's faithful ones from Adam and Eve to the day Christ died into Heavenly bliss.
We then move into the New Covenant with the Epistle and Gospel Readings followed by Liturgy of Baptism where candidates who have been undergoing the catechumen program are now fully accepted into the Body of Christ's One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. First all recite the Litany of Saints to unite us in the Communion of Saints as we, the Church Militant join the Church Suffering in Purgatory and the Church Triumphant in Heaven to profess our faith, hope and love in the Trinity and Christ's victory over death. There is then the Blessing of Water and the candidates renounce their sins, make their profession of faith and then receive the Sacrament of Baptism with first the saving water, then the anointing with Chrism oil, clothed with the Baptismal garment and presented a lighted candle symbolic that they have been brought into the Light of Christ and rid of Original Sin. The entire congregation then join the newly baptized candidates in Renewal of their Baptismal Promises by first renouncing their sins, then a Profession of Faith. The Celebrant then sprinkles all with Holy Water from the asperges. Now all the newly baptized candidates are fully received by the entire congregation at the beckoning of the Celebrant.
Following the Liturgy of Baptism is the Celebration of Confirmation where the candidates for Confirmation are invited to come forth where either the Bishop or his appointed representative in the person of the Celebrant lays on hands and then annoints each with the Holy Chrism with the words, "Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. This concludes the special Easter Vigil liturgy as the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins and, for the first time the newly Baptized are able to partake of this beautiful Liturgy and the entire Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We now have but a few hours to wait until that glorious day - Easter Sunday and the Resurrection - the beginning of the rest of our lives...forever!
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard - upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless Mercy for ages without end. Amen.
Following is the formula for the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, prayed on the regular beads of the Rosary. It is most appropriate to pray it at 3 o'clock in the afternoon which is the "Hour of Great Mercy" as Jesus said to Blessed Faustina: At three o'clock, implore My Mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the Hour of Great Mercy...In this hour I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion. (1320).
On each decade of the small beads, pray the following:
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
At the end of the Chaplet recite three times the following prayer:
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Then conclude with the following prayer said three times also:
O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as Font of Mercy for us, I trust in You!
It is recommended to offer each decade to the wounds of Christ, such as the first decade in reparation for the wound in HIs Right Hand; the second decade in reparation for the wound in His Left Hand, the third decade in reparation for the wounds in His Sacred Feet; the fourth decade in reparation for the wounds in His Head in which the Crown of Thorns crushed His Sacred Skull; and the fifth decade in reparation for the wound in His side in which Blood and Water gushed forth as a Font of Mercy for all generations.
The Novena to Divine Mercy, which Jesus asked Blessed Faustina to begin on Good Friday, 1937 is for nine days from Good Friday to Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter) which is the Feast of Divine Mercy. Jesus told her, By this Novena [of Chaplets and particular intention each day] I will grant every possible grace to souls. (796).
The Vatican delegation-- headed by Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Secretary for Relations with States-- will leave Rome on Holy Thursday, April 1. They will meet directly with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and also with the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle.
This latest Vatican diplomatic initiative, announced on March 31, followed the delivery of a personal message from Patriarch Pavle to the Pope. Before formally announcing the special mission, the Vatican consulted with NATO leaders to arrange for the safe conduct of the Church delegation.
At a March 30 meeting of ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, Cardinal Angelo Sodano insisted that "an end to military operations" is essential to the peace process in Kosovo.
The Vatican's Secretary of State was speaking to a meeting of diplomats, who had been summoned to a joint session to discuss the crisis in Kosovo. Cardinal Sodano said that the United Nations and other international bodies had a duty to re-establish peace in the region. The diplomats who had been asked to attend the meeting were the Vatican ambassadors of the NATO nations and the nations belonging to the UN Security Council.
The meeting-- an unprecedented event at the Vatican-- brought together 16 ambassadors, for a two-hour session. Only one of the ambassadors summoned to the meeting failed to attend: the Russian envoy. Diplomatic sources suggested that the Russian government had given the ambassador directions not to attend, fearing that he would be isolated among the diplomats representing NATO. The Russian government has condemned the NATO air strikes, and indicated sympathy toward the claims of Yugoslavia.
Cardinal Sodano told the ambassadors that Pope John Paul II is deeply concerned by the violence in the Balkan region, and outlined the diplomatic initiatives undertaken by the Holy See in an effort to find a diplomatic solution.
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's chief foreign-policy official, told the diplomats that the Holy See appreciates the efforts made by various international leaders in recent months to produce a negotiated solution to the conflict in Kosovo. He called for the speedy delivery of humanitarian aid to the people afflicted by the violence there.
The Yugoslavian ambassador to the Holy See, Dojcilo Maslovaric, did not take part in the session, but met separately with Cardinal Sodano and Archbishop Tauran for an hour in the morning prior to the meeting. After that meeting the Yugoslavian envoy praised the diplomatic efforts of the Holy See, adding, "Let us hope that they bear some fruit."
On March 31, Cardinal Sodano met with several leading Russian political figures, including former Prime Minister Gaidar, who presented the Vatican with "several propositions for an initiative which could re-establish peace in the Balkans."
Finally, Pope John Paul II has sent Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, the head of the papal charity Cor Unum, to coordinate the efforts of the various Catholic groups working to help the refugees fleeing from Kosovo. Archbishop Cordes will bring a donation of $50,000 from the Pope's charity, as an expression of the Holy Father's solidarity with the local Church. He will also meet with Albanian political leaders before visiting refugee camps near the Kosovo border.
In a message relayed through the Vatican news agency FIDES, Father Giacomo Bini, the minister general of the Franciscan order, issued a plea for "a celebration of Easter in serenity and peace." The Franciscan order has traditionally been an important presence in the Balkan region, and now has established several shelters for the refugees flowing out of Kosovo.
The Franciscan leader continued: "Humbly but firmly, we ask all who have a voice and responsibility for this horrible conflict, to use all their power to keep open the dialogue between the parties; only the force of reason can produce solutions worthy of human dignity, avoiding the folly of war."
Father Bini said the Franciscans felt compelled "to make these requests in the name of all those who cannot make their own voices heard-- those who are living under the bombardment, those who have been forced to leave their own land, those who have been subject to atrocious physical and psychological violence."
There are 8 Franciscan monasteries in the regions of Yugoslavia, including 4
within the areas that have been bombarded by NATO forces. Father Bini
revealed that the friars have responded to the latest warface by setting up a
"web of solidarity" to shelter refugees from Kosovo:
- In Tuzi, Montenegro, the Franciscans host about 2,500 refugees-- with
that number increasing every hour;
- In Dushai, Albania, just 12 miles from the Kosovo border, the Franciscan Order has set up an emergency center, offering first aid and a few provisions to the refugees, accommodating up to 35 people at a time; the center is constantly crowded;
- In Scutari, Albania, a refugee shelter now houses 300 people, and is again overcrowded;
- In Macedonia, Franciscans have set up a joint relief operation with the help of Orthodox clerics and Caritas Macedonia. These shelters are being operated with the cooperation of the United Nations Commission for Refugees, and in conjunction with efforts by the local dioceses.
For those who want to support the Franciscan Friars in their work for the Kosovo refugees, donations may be sent to the Institute for Religious Works at the Vatican, in the name of:
In a related story, US aid groups chased out of Kosovo by a week of NATO air strikes said on Tuesday that they are focusing on providing relief for tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.
The groups called for donations of food, medicine, clothing, blankets, tents, and money to help the flood of ethnic Albanian Kosovars seeking refuge in Montenegro, Albania, and Macedonia. Feed the Children said it had to pull their relief workers from Kosovo and are unable to transport supplies into the province. World Vision said it pulled its six workers out of Kosovo and tripled the number in Montenegro.
"People are concerned about refugees who have fled Kosovo -- they think the humanitarian crisis is on this side of the border," said Kevin Cook, head of World Vision in Kosovo. "The real needs are with people inside Kosovo."
The UN is finishing negotiations on implementation of the population agreement adopted at the 1994 Cairo conference and is expected to vote on it in a special General Assembly in June. Congress has decreed that no US funds may be spent on any government or organization that supports or runs "a population program that is not voluntary."
US delegate Elizabeth Maguire said the demands are unnecessary because the "letter and spirit of the law" are already included. "There's very strong language in there on ensuring voluntary, free, and informed choices in a context of privacy, confidentiality and respect," she said. But, Robert Maginnis of the Family Research Council said including the exact congressional language into the UN proposal "would go beyond these existing restrictions to promote genuine national sovereignty on family planning policies."
The coalition of pro-life groups said some nations are threatened with a cutoff of development aid if they don't accept population control programs, and some programs use coercion or deception to entice men and women into agreeing to sterilization.
In his message issued for Easter, Patriarch Sabbah emphasized that the message of this year's Easter is "related to the immediate preparations for the Great Jubilee of the year 2000: it bears the main significance of the Jubilee, the significance of forgiveness, renewal, conversion, return to God." The Patriarch also urged the faithful to welcome the "Spirit of God, the spirit of justice, reconciliation and love."
"Easter," he said, "is a message of hope for Jerusalem and all the Church of Jerusalem where Jesus is risen, and where we, Christians of this land, are called to witness to the Lord Jesus in our difficult times in these days. To all our faithful in all parts of our dioceses, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus, I wish a happy and Holy Easter. May it be a source of conversion and hence a true resurrection in the heart of each of us," concluded the Patriarch.