The Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil

Easter VigilThe Easter Vigil liturgy is one of the most beautiful liturgies of the Church. Although celebrated Holy Saturday evening, it is the Easter vigil liturgy that marks the beginning of Easter. The vigil is normally divided into four parts: (1) Service of Light; (2) Liturgy of the Word; (3) Liturgy of Baptism (even if there are no baptisms, all the faithful participate in renewing their baptismal vows); and (4) Liturgy of the Eucharist (at St. John’s we end the Vigil just prior to this part in anticipation of the first Eucharist on Easter Morning). Here is a brief description of each of the first three parts of the Easter Vigil:

3 candles burning(1) Service of Light: The atmosphere in the church is seemingly different as the church is dark A new fire is kindled and blessed by the priest. The Paschal Candle is then lighted from the newly kindled fire, and the Deacon bearing the Candle, leads the procession to the chancel, pausing three times to chant, “The light of Christ,” to which the congregation responds, “Thanks be to God.” Each time the Deacon pauses to chant, the congregation’s candles are lighted from the Paschal Candle until the whole church is alight. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World.

Once the procession reaches the chancel, the Paschal Candle is placed in its stand. The Deacon or other appointed person will then either chant or say the Exsultet. “This magnificent hymn, which is remarkable for its lyric beauty and profound symbolism, announces the dignity and meaning of the mystery of Easter; it tells of man’s sin, of God’s mercy, and of the great love of the Redeemer for mankind, admonishing us in turn to thank the Trinity for all the graces that have been lavished upon us” (With Christ Through the Year, by Bernard Strasser 1947).  At the conclusion of the Exsultet, the congregation’s candles are extinguished.

(2) Liturgy of the Word: During the Easter vigil, nine readings are provided: seven Old Testament and two New Testament. Not all are required to be read due to time constraints, but at least three Old Testament readings must be read, including Exodus 14. These readings help us meditate on the wonderful works of God for his people since the beginning of time.

(3) Liturgy of Baptism: During this time new members are brought into the Church through the Sacrament of Baptism. Afterwards the faithful renew their baptismal promises.

(Source: Article entitled, Catholic Activity: Easter Vigil, by Jennifer Gregory Miller from the website,

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