The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II has a remarkable little paragraph: "Let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be observed everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, as a way of coming to the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection with upliFted and welcoming heart." (# 110)
This is a "paschal" fast, the Easter fast. The two words don't seem at first to go together at all. This is not the Lenten fast for that has ended as Lent ended before the evening liturgy of Holy Thursday. It is paschal, that is, "Passover" fasting that we are invited to do here. Something is being left behind. Something is beginning. And it sounds like a serious fast, not just a no-eating-between-meals sort of thing. It sounds serious because of what it is meant to accomplish: "a way of coming to the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection with uplifted and welcoming heart." Such a fast that has its good effects on mind and heart, as well as body, is a solemn and very infrequent undertaking.
What kind of a fasting is this? It comes from the same past of us that has us fast before momentous events in our lives. Few of us are hungry on the morning of our wedding day! It is that kind of fast, the fast of excitement, the fast of being so full of what is to come that food is almost forgotten. A Friday and Saturday like that will give us hearts uplifted and ready to welcome the Vigil.
The fasting is not only from food. Even more important may be the fasting from our normal work, the fasting from seeking ways to be entertained, the fasting from anger and harsh words. In all of this is the way we pass the first two days of these Three Days. There are the liturgies on Holy Thursday night and Good Friday, but the special character of these days cannot be restricted to these more formal times. All the ways we fast bring us into the Triduum, make it ours, let is shape our lives. Triduum is too important to be left to its liturgies alone.
Such a fast is what any self-respecting tribe would be engaged in before daring to enter into its sacred rites of initiation. People seem to know that the whole person has to be made ready and that does not happen without engaging the body, the mind and the heart. Fasting, we can't pretend that the initiating work of the Vigil is up to someone else. We know it belongs to us. The space that is created by our fast makes room for the watching and praying that lead the church through Good Friday and Holy Saturday and into the night of the Vigil.
[Source: Supplement, St. Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral, Saskatoon, SK, Canada; March, 2010]