Congregation for Divine Worship on Saturday, 20 February 1988. The Easter Solemnity, revised and restored by Pius XII in 1951 and then the Order preparation for communion children Holy Week in 1955 were favourably received by the Church of the Roman Rite. The Second Vatican Council, especially in the Constitution on the sacred Liturgy, repeatedly drawing upon tradition called attention to Christ’s paschal mystery and pointed out that it is the fount from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power.
Lent and prolonged for fifty days. In many parts of the Christian world, the faithful followers of Christ, with their pastors, attach great importance to the celebration of this rite, and participate in it with great spiritual gain. However, in some areas where initially the reform of the Easter Vigil was received enthusiastically, it would appear that with the passage of time this enthusiasm has begun to wane. The very concept of the Vigil has almost come to be forgotten in some places with the result that it is celebrated as if it were an evening Mass, in the same way and at the same time as the Mass celebrated on Saturday evening in anticipation of the Sunday. It also happens that the celebrations of the Triduum are not held at the correct times.
This is because certain devotions and pious exercises are held at more convenient times and so the faithful participate in them rather than in the liturgical celebrations. Without any doubt one of the principal reasons for this state of affairs is the inadequate formation given to the clergy and the faithful regarding the paschal mystery as the centre of the liturgical year and of Christian life. The holiday period which today in many places coincides with Holy Week and certain attitudes held by present-day society concur to present difficulties for the faithful to participate in these celebrations. With these points in mind, the Congregation for Divine Worship, after due consideration, thinks that it is a fitting moment to recall certain elements, doctrinal and pastoral, and various norms which have already been published concerning Holy Week. All those details which are given in the liturgical books concerning Lent, Holy Week, the Easter Triduum and Paschal time retain their full force, unless otherwise stated in this document. It is the aim of this document that the great mystery of our Redemption be celebrated in the best possible way so that the faithful may participate in it with ever greater spiritual advantage.
The annual Lenten season is the fitting time to climb the Holy Mountain of Easter. The Lenten season has a double character, namely to prepare both catechumens and faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. God and prayer, prepare themselves by penance for the renewal of their baptismal promises”. The whole rite of Christian initiation has a markedly paschal character, since it is therein that the sacramental participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ takes place for the first time. Vigil should be regarded as the proper time to celebrate the sacraments of initiation. Communities that do not have any catechumens should not however fail to pray for those who in the forthcoming paschal Vigil will receive the sacraments of Christian initiation.
Pastors should explain to the faithful the importance of the profession of baptismal faith for the growth of their spiritual life. They will be invited to renew this profession of faith “at the end of the Lenten penitential observance”. In Lent there should be catechesis for those adults who, although baptized when infants, were not brought up in the faith and consequently have not been confirmed nor have they received the Eucharist. During this period penitential services should be arranged to help prepare them for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Lenten season is also an appropriate time for the celebration of penitential rites on the model of the scrutinies for unbaptized children who are at an age to be catechized, and also for children already baptized, before being admitted to the Sacrament of Penance. The bishop should have particular care to foster the catechumenate of both adults and children and according to circumstances, to preside at the prescribed rites, with the devout participation of the local community.