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Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil?

Easter Vigil

One can never be sure just what you will encounter for worship as you visit around the Anglican Church of Or. The Easter Vigil for me is (& should be?) the peak of the Church Year, its crown. “The high point of Holy Week celebrations is known as the Great Vigil of Easter, for it proclaims and celebrates the whole of salvation history and Christ‟s saving work.” It is the climax and completion of the Triduum services: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil.

For me it is always one of those leave-your-watch-at-home/ignore-the-clock/forget-about-time type of service. It is a vigil. Long, majestic, glorious.

We were not at home for Easter, so looked for an Easter Vigil. We found one advertised – Easter Vigil with confirmation. Well, we thought, I guess that will make it extra long, and we will need to get there especially early to get a place, but… what does that really matter – it’s the Easter Vigil. So this is what we headed for, and we brought some others with us.

We were surprised, when we arrived, 15-20 minutes before starting, that there were only about 5% of the seats taken. It filled up to about 7%.

The Easter Vigil has four components:

1. The Service of Light.
2. The Ministry of the Word.
3. Baptism or the Renewal of Baptism.
4. The Ministry of the Sacrament.

This is true for the Roman Catholic Church, for The Episcopal Church, for the Church of England,…

At the service we attended there were two Old Testament readings, the Paschal candle was lit, The Exultet was sung, there was a reading from Romans, there was no reading from the gospel, no sermon, no prayers of the people, no communion, no Easter acclamation (Alleluia. Christ is risen…); confirmation. And we were out within the hour.

I had never heard of and certainly had not experienced an Easter Vigil without communion! Yes, the Exultet mentioned Christ’s resurrection – but without a Gospel account, without the Easter acclamation (no one even greeted us with that, as I am used to, as we left), and being dismissed with the words that we would “celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus tomorrow”, I think I can be forgiven in wondering – what had I just celebrated?

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6 thoughts on “Easter Vigil?”

    1. As a vicar I put a lot of energy into promoting the Vigil so that the region knew it was even more festive than Christmas Midnight Mass. That meant articles and advertising in local media, finding and preparing people who wanted to be baptised and have their children baptised (each baptism bringing its own crowd), preaching, teaching, and writing about it, actually having a service where everything was as celebratory as possible: darkness, fire, candles, everyone with bells and gongs, the best music and singing, warm church building, child-and-young-person-friendly, balloons, chocolate, and a party with great food and drink continuing after the service. The first Vigil I ran as vicar had to be a wow event, so that those who thought it wouldn’t be the event I had anticipated and prepared for became strong supporters, it was sure to be reported about as a local don’t-miss event in the media, and those who had decided not to come that year were sure to be part of it the next.

      The church building was always packed full of celebrating people for the Great Easter Vigil.

      Christ is risen.

  1. I think I can guess where you were. Meanwhile, ten minutes up the road, two hours later … I was considering not doing a vigil next year given the close proximity of another, now I will think again …

  2. I have spent an adult lifetime in which I’ve missed the Vigil exactly once. I can’t imagine Easter without it. I equally can’t imagine the Great Vigil without the proclamation of the Easter gospel and sermon appropriate to the significance of the occasion!
    At our parish we carefully select and recruit story tellers to present the OT texts. The results are invariably imaginative, creative, and charged with enthusiasm. This year we celebrated the inclusion of a small Korean community with a bi-lingual service with baptisms in Korean. It was a fabulous evening.
    We end the service with a “sparkling reception” in the narthex. Our typical draw is 75 souls. Not too bad for a parish with 290 members.
    I think the old adage rings true: You get out of something what you put into it. We are blessed that rector and worship committee are all deeply committed to Holy Week / Easter as the peak of our liturgical year, and the Great Vigil as the highlight of the cycle.

    Funny about time. I find I am always surprised when I look at my watch after the final hymn. Those are hours well spent “in the moment.” I think effective liturgy does that — pulling us out of ordinary time-consciousness and into a different sacred-time.
    Lou Poulain
    lay member, St. Thomas Episcopal
    Sunnyvale CA USA

  3. In the past, my experience was regularly the following. The Triodion book says that the Easter vigil should begin «after the tenth hour» (5 pm). All the Orthodox-Church parishes I knew used to begin it at 7 am on Saturday morning, omitting all the 16 OT readings, as well as most of the vespers elements. Then, on Saturday night at 24 pm, they would light the new fire and sing matins (which matins are the shortest of the year, and would last half an hour only).

    The first Byzantine Easter vigil I attended took place in a Byzantine-Catholic chapel in Belgium. And the Easter vigils that are celebrated there seem to me to be the only ones that are 100% correct.

    The Western parishes use to begin the Easter vigil late (8 pm). That’s counter-productive. Either they are doing it short, that it may not last too long, or either they are finishing it at 11 pm, while the faithful’s natural clock pointing they should go to bed.

    Indeed, the Exsultet says: «receive our EVENING sacrifice of praise» and «may this flame be found still burning by the MORNING star», but if we wish to do it well, we should be reasonable. Non multa, sed multum.

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