A Ritual Journey: Holy Saturday Rites (Part 2)

Holy Saturday, in addition to the Choosing of a Baptismal Name and Anointing with the Oil of the Catechumens, contains two additional, optional rites the

  • Ephphetha Rite
  • Recitation (Return) of the Creed

The Recitation or Return of the Creed allows the elect to profess their faith and demonstrate that they have taken the Creed to heart. Normally, this would be the Apostles’ Creed (the baptismal creed), which would have been presented to the elect following the Third Scrutiny (see the previous blog post on The Presentation of the Creed). The Recitation of the Creed would not take place if the Presentation of the Creed had not occurred earlier. The Apostles’ Creed is also the Creed used in the interrogatory profession of faith when the elect are baptized at the Easter Vigil. This Recitation of the Creed allows the elect to show that they have memorized the Creed and it prepares them to profess it at the font. [It would also be good to familiarize the elect during the period of enlightenment with the Nicene Creed since they will be professing it at the Divine Service.] The prayer before the recitation reflects those intentions for the rite:

Lord, we pray to you for these elect, who have now accepted for themselves the loving purpose and the mysteries that you revealed in the life of your Son. As they profess their belief with their lips, may they have faith in their hearts and accomplish your will in their lives. We ask this through Christ our Lord (RCIA, 117).

The Ephphetha Rite, which can be traced back at least to the 6th century, reflects the account of Jesus healing the deaf man in Mark 7:

And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

This rite of opening the ears and the mouth symbolizes the importance for the elect of hearing the Word of God and professing that same Word with their mouths (Romans 10:9-10). The presider touches both ears of the elect and their closed lips with his thumb and says:

Ephphetha: that is, be opened, that you may profess the faith you hear, to the praise and glory of God (RCIA, 120).

If both rites are used on Holy Saturday they would follow this order:

  • Ephphetha Rite
  • Prayer before the Recitation
  • Recitation/Return of the Creed

As I indicated in my last post, these four rites can be incorporated into a simple service of the Word following this pattern (and including a possible ordering of all the optional rites):

  • Hymn
  • Greeting
  • Reading of the Word of God
  • Homily
  • The Rites
    • Anointing with the Oil of Catechumens
    • Choosing a Baptismal Name/Interpretation of Given Name
    • Ephphetha Rite
    • Recitation/Return of the Creed
  • Prayer of Blessing and Dismissal (RCIA, 116)

Hymns and songs could separate the various elements of this brief service of the Word. The role of the homily would be to interpret the rites celebrated for the elect and to point them toward the culmination of their journey at the Easter Vigil. In the catechumenate, these optional Holy Saturday rites mark the transition from the Period of Purification and Enlightenment into the Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation.