Sabbatum Magnum

Sabbatum Magnum (great Sabbath). The day before Easter was designated as the high Sabbath, partly in imitation of the primitive institution, and partly in token of respect for the time in which our Savior lay in the grave. This was the only Sabbath eventually continued in the Church and distinguished bI peculiar solemnities. It was set apart as a strict fast, probably with reference to the words of Christ, "When the Bridegroom is taken away from them, in those days shall they fast." It was called the Easter vigil, and was among the earliest of those established by Christians. From Lactantius, Jerome, and other Christian writers we learn that the early Christians expected the second coming of our Lord on this night, and prepared themselves for it by fasting, prayer, and other spiritual exercises. The Easter vigil was distinguished by the lighting of a large taper (cerers paschalis), signifying the resurrection of our Lord, and the consequent rejoicing of the Church; by the baptism of catechumens, particularly in the Greek Church; and by the reading of proper lessons, which took place immediately before the celebration of the baptism. The fast was continued till cock-crowing the next morning, which was supposed to be the time of the resurrection. In the Latin Church the Easter vigil was suppressed, in consequence of the numerous abuses practiced and the injury to the morals of young people.

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