Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Great Vigil of Easter

Candle and Easter egg.Image via Wikipedia

It's been many years since I attended my first service of The Great Vigil of Easter. As a rather "new" Episcopalian, I felt the service to be a bit unusual - long readings of scriptures in the dark, lit candles held by young and old alike - the young finding the wax intriguing, the old drifting off with lit candles in their hands - yikes! As I said, I felt some reticence about the whole idea of Easter Eve! That is, until the moment when the announcement was made that "Christ is Risen." The organ and choir raising their most glorious voices in praise, parishioners old and young awaking to the news that Christ had risen from the dead!

Today, I anticipate the Vigil with eager thoughts of that moment and that announcement! If you've never experienced the Vigil and are anywhere near an Episcopal church, it's worth a visit to be a part of the congregation's sorrow and wonder while listening to the history of our faith from the very beginning of the Holy Bible's myths through to the joy and honest salvation of the Resurrection.

This is the opening prayer for the The Great Vigil of Easter -

"Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which, by hearing the Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share in his victory over death."
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  1. I actually just learned about the Easter Vigil- what a stunning sacred tradition! I love your description of the service and wish you a joyous Easter!

  2. From your description, this sounds a lot like our RC Vigil liturgy. We begin outside the church by lighting the New Fire which we use to ignite the Paschal candle that precedes us into the darkened church. I paint the Paschal candle in my community which is made from the remnants of last year's altar candles. We have a moving service -- alas, this year will be our last together -- that is done with our own particular flare. I added a modern prophetess to the other OT prophetic readings (Joan Chittister), for example. This is my favorite liturgy of the entire year, even if it is known to go on for hours! Happy Easter, Sunrise Sister!

  3. e.o.w. - it is indeed an awesome service! Happy Easter to you also!

    Barbara - oh yes, it's the same service and I find it just delicious. I think I began to truly enjoy it when I truly began to enjoy it and stopped worrying about how long it can be. It is one of my favorite services of the year also. Happy Easter!

  4. I love the idea of a Paschal Candle made of the remnants of old altar candles. Alas, ours is one of those oil-wax filled things. But that's not really the point is it. The point is made as the deacon processes into the darkened church chanting "The Light of Christ".

  5. CP - yes, than chant preceding the deacon's chant prior to the service is a truly moving moment. The evening was mysterious, magical, joyous.....and all of us came down to earth when the adult (usually it's a well trained teenager) returned to the sanctuary to extinguish the Paschal Candle with all of us liturgy freaks inwardly shrieking, "No, no, not the Pascahl Candle!" You know what, Christ is still Risen:)