In former times the Church held no special service on this day, but a meeting was held in the course of the afternoon for the last scrutiny of the catechumens, which almost immediately preceded the baptism; several ceremonies that precede the conferring of baptism were performed at this gathering.
At night was held the Watch or solemn Vigil of Easter, towards the end of which, before daybreak, the Catechumens plunged in the water of the baptistry were so to speak buried with Jesus; and at the very hour at which Christ rose triumphantly from the sepulcher they were born to the life of grace.
Later the great ceremonies were anticipated, being held in the evening.
The Blessing of the New Fire
The Church, blessing as she does all elements of which she makes use for Divine worship, formerly made a practice of blessing every evening the new fire that was to provide the light for the office of Vespers. The liturgy of Holy Saturday maintains this custom. She also introduced later on the blessing of the five grains of incense which are to be fixed in the Paschal candle.
The altars are covered with linen cloths, but the candles are not lighted until the beginning of Mass. Meanwhile a spark is ignited outside, and the fire is kindled. The priest, accompanied by his ministers with processional cross, holy water and incense, goes outside the church door, if it can be conveniently done, or stands in the entrance of the church and blesses the new fire.
The Virgin Mary in the Kingdom of the Divine Will
Lesson of the Desolate Queen and Mother:
… Now, listen to Me (the Blessed Mother), daughter of My Sorrows: as My Dear Son (Jesus) Breathed His last, He descended into Limbo, as Triumpher and Bearer of Glory and Happiness to that prison in which were all the Patriarchs and Prophets, the first father Adam, dear Saint Joseph, My holy parents, and all those who had been saved by virtue of the foreseen Merits of the future Redeemer. I was Inseparable from My Son, and not even death could take Him away from Me. So, in the Ardor of My Sorrows I followed Him into Limbo and was Spectator of the Feast, of the Thanksgivings, which that whole great crowd of people gave to My Son, who had suffered so much, and whose first step had been toward them, to Beatify them and to bring them with Himself to Celestial Glory. So, as He died, Conquests and Glory began for Jesus and for all those who loved Him. This, dear daughter, is symbol of how, as the creature makes her will die through Union with the Divine Will, Conquests of Divine Order, Glory and Joy begin, even in the midst of the greatest sorrows. Even though the eyes of My Soul followed My Son (Jesus) and I (the Blessed Mother) never lost sight of Him, at the same time, during those three days in which He was buried, I felt such Yearnings to see Him Risen, that in My Ardor of Love I kept repeating: “Rise, My Glory! Rise, My Life!” My Desires were Ardent, My Sighs, of Fire—to the point of feeling consumed.