The Station is at St. John Lateran, on account of the important baptistry attached to this basilica.
In former times the Church held no special service on this day, but a meeting was held in the course of the afternoon for the last scrutiny of the catechumens, which almost immediately preceded the baptism; several ceremonies that still precede the conferring of baptism, were performed at this gathering.
At night was held the Watch or solemn Vigil of Easter, towards the end of which, before daybreak, the Catechumens plunged in the water of the baptistry were so to speak buried with Jesus; and at the very hour at which Christ rose triumphantly from the sepulcher they were born to the life of grace.
Later the great ceremonies were anticipated, being held first in the evening, and subsequently in the morning of Holy Saturday. They reveal a sudden change from sorrow to joy, and disclose certain anomalies which this notice helps to explain.
The Blessing of the New Fire
The Church, blessing as she does all elements of which she makes use for divine worship, made a practice of blessing every evening the new fire that was to provide the light for the office of Vespers. The liturgy of Holy Saturday maintains this custom. She also introduced later on the blessing of the five grains of incense which are to be fixed in the Paschal candle.
The altars are covered with linen cloths, but the candles are not lighted until the beginning of Mass. Meanwhile fire is struck from a flint outside the church and the coals are kindled. The priest vested in alb and violet stole, with or without a violet cope, accompanied by his ministers with processional cross, holy water, and incense goes outside the church door, if it can be conveniently done, or stands in the entrance of the church, and blesses the new fire.