Dear Father,

As you look ahead to preparing your Easter Triduum schedules, I ask that you ensure the primacy of the celebration of the Easter Vigil, the highpoint of the entire Triduum. Because of the Easter Vigil’s importance, I would like to clarify two areas in our diocese’s celebrations.

One of the primary symbols of the Easter Vigil is light dispelling the darkness. We symbolize this by lighting the Easter fire and Paschal Candle, and then singing the thanksgiving to Christ, our Light. So that our symbols in worship may be genuine, the first part of the Easter Vigil, the Service of Light, must begin in darkness after nightfall. This is required by the rubrics of the Sacramentary which state: “The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday” (Sacramentary, Easter Sunday, During the Night, Easter Vigil, #3). Nightfall begins on March 26, 2005, at 6:51 p.m. for the San Jose area. Thus the Easter Vigil for 2005 in the Diocese of San Jose may not begin before 7:00 p.m.

The second area is more challenging, but critical, especially in our multicultural and diverse diocese. Because of the centrality of the Easter Vigil, which is the first Mass of Easter, the Church requires that there be only one Easter Vigil celebration for every parish. The rubrics in the Sacramentary state:

In the United States, although it is never permitted to celebrate the entire Easter Vigil more than once in a given church or to anticipate the Mass of Easter before the vigil, in those places where the local Ordinary permits the anticipation of Sunday Masses on Saturday evening, for pastoral reasons an additional Mass may be celebrated after the Mass of the Easter Vigil. Such a Mass may follow the liturgy of the word of the Mass of the Easter Vigil and other texts of that Mass and should include the renewal of baptismal promises (Sacramentary, Easter Sunday, During the Night, Easter Vigil, #3, emphasis added).
If additional Masses are celebrated in your parish for pastoral reasons on Holy Saturday, they must begin only after the Easter Vigil Mass has concluded that evening. (No additional Mass may be celebrated from the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday until the end of the Easter Vigil.) Further, these anticipated Masses cannot be a “second” Easter Vigil and, therefore, do not include the Service of Light (blessing of fire, first lighting of the Easter Candle, and Exsultet) or the blessing of the baptismal font. It is assumed that the Easter Candle has already been lit and the font already blessed at the parish’s one Easter Vigil celebration. Thus, these things are not repeated at later celebrations on Saturday or Sunday.

Because of the preeminence of the Easter Vigil, I am requiring that every parish’s Triduum schedule for 2005 and the years to follow be faithful to the rubrics I have highlighted above so that every parish in our diocese is celebrating only one Easter Vigil that begins after nightfall.

The majority of parishes in our diocese have already been careful in following these rubrics and have been creative and diligent in meeting their related challenges even amid the reality of multilingual communities. I commend and uphold their work. In the next few months, Diana Macalintal, the Associate for Liturgy, will be providing assistance in helping all parishes deal with the practical issues of coordinating a single Easter Vigil.

I continue to see many parishes implementing the Communion norms I had mandated last Easter, and I am grateful for your good work. I will continue in my efforts to see that every parish and worshipping community in our diocese is offering the Precious Blood to the assembly at every Sunday and feast day Mass, is avoiding the use of the tabernacle for the distribution of Communion within Mass, and is standing and singing together until the last person has received Communion. I encourage you in your continued faithfulness to these practices.

With every best wish and kind regard, I remain,
Sincerely yours,
Patrick J. McGrath
Bishop of San Jose