It is often assumed that the practice of holding the paschal vigil on Saturday morning was an obvious anomaly, explicable perhaps by the law of fasting from midnight before Holy Communion, but sensibly changed by Pope Pius XII. In fact it makes perfect sense when one considers that our Lord’s victory has a dual character: it is a victory over sin and a victory over death. The victory over sin is primarily accomplished on Good Friday, when super-abundant satisfaction is made for the sins of the whole world. The victory over death is primarily accomplished very early on Easter Sunday when He rises again never to die any more, the exemplar for the resurrection of His faithful members.

The vigil on Saturday morning therefore celebrates the first victory, which is already achieved. The Mass of Easter day is above all a celebration of the second victory. It would be interesting to know what connexion there was between the moving of the time of the vigil and the growth of a Balthasarian view of Holy Saturday, the idea, so repugnant to tradition, that Christ’s descent into hell was a continuation and even intensification of His Passion, rather than the joyful progress of a conquering King.