The organ breaks the silence of the basilica, along with the church bells and the joy of the resurrection that fill the church. It is Easter in Jerusalem. Christ rises here and now. Today, just like he did two thousand years ago.
The Great Easter Vigil, the “mother of all vigils,” as the liturgy reads, takes place on Saturday morning at the Holy Sepulcher. This year, it is taking place at dawn, with the first rays of the sun penetrating into the shrine, and it will coincide with the Orthodox Easter, whose rites are celebrated in the same basilica.
[Blog Editors Note: Unlike in the rest of the Latin Church because the rules and timetable of the liturgies at the Basilica of the Holy Sepelchre are governed by the 1853 Status Quo, the Latin liturgies follow an older timetable. In this case pre-1955 when Pius XII reformed the liturgies for Holy Week and moved the Easter Vigil from Holy Saturday morning back to Holy Saturday evening. However in Jerusalem, the older timetable has to be maintained.]
The light for the Easter candle is taken directly from the Sepulcher. The deacon hands it to Latin Patriarch Archbishop Fouad Twal, who presides over the celebration. Then, from that flame, the lamps and candles in front of the shrine and those of all the faithful are lit.
After a long series of readings for the Easter Vigil, it is the patriarch himself who reads the Gospel of the Resurrection, right in front of the door where the Empty Tomb is located. In the account according to Matthew, the women are the first to receive the announcement of the resurrection.
“This is the most important place for the Church, where the Church was born, and with the presence of women, the word is spread. And even today, the first person they say saw him was Mary Magdalene and I'm happy about that.”
"There is a message: He is not here; he is risen. Jerusalem continually calls us to go beyond ourselves, to bring this message that is the heart of the Gospel to the whole world.”
In the baptismal liturgy, with the blessing of water and sprinkling of the faithful, there is a sign of hope for the Holy Land.
H.B. FOUAD TWAL
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
“It is my wish for peace: for the local church, for all the people who live in the Holy Land, peace for everyone! And I hope that the Universal Church feels committed to this peace, to this Christian community and to this joy along with us.”