(INSTRUCTION PRECEDING SOLEMN MASS OF THE PASCHAL VIGIL)
COL. 3, 1-4; MT. 28, 1-7.
THIS night we celebrate the Church's central and most ancient feast, the paschal feast, commemorating the mystery of our redemption.
For at least two centuries, this, plus the Sunday, was the Church's year, or rather this alone comprised the liturgical observance, since every Sunday was thought of as "a little Easter."
All early catechetical instruction was paschal-centered. The best early catecheses in the Church, from the pens of John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, and Cyril of Jerusalem, were delivered on this night or in the days that immediately follow Easter.
The feast is primarily a commemoration of our holy baptism.
This evening's action is divided into three parts: the Light Service, the Baptismal Service, and the Eucharistic Service.
We first illumine the Church with new fire--a spark struck from the flinty rock, which is Christ. The blessing of the fire is symbolic now, but once it was very practical. All lamps in the churches were extinguished and an absolutely fresh start was made.
Then we bless the candle, which again is Christ--the world's light, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Our salvation is accomplished in time. This is the year of our salvation in the Lord, anno Domini 1965. We so observe it.