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Easter Vigil

About Easter

Easter Vigil

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The Easter Vigil, also called the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in many Christian churches as the official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, this is the preferred service for people to be baptized. It is held on the night of Holy Saturday. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Easter Vigil includes the first use of the word alleluia since the beginning of Lent and is the most important Mass of the liturgical year as well as the first Eucharist of Easter. In Eastern Orthodoxy its Divine Liturgy is held to be the brightest of all of them and is reflected to a degree in all the others. The Easter Vigil has gained similar regard in many of the churches of the Anglican Communion.

Roman Catholicism

In the Roman Catholic tradition the service normally consists of four parts:

  1. The Service of Light
  2. The Liturgy of the Word
  3. Christian Initiation, or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows
  4. The Holy Eucharist

Most parishes do not begin the service until after sundown on Holy Saturday. The service begins in the darkness, often in a place other the nave, such as a side chapel, or perhaps outdoors. A new fire is lit and blessed, and the Paschal candle, symbolizing the Light of Christ, is lit from the fire. All baptised Christians (those who have received the "Light of Christ") receive candles, the congregation processes to the nave and their candles are lit from the new fire which is passed from one member of the congregation to another forward through the church. The deacon, or the priest if there is no deacon, carries the Paschal Candle at the head of the procession and at three points stops and chants either "Light of Christ" or "Christ our Light," to which the people respond "Thanks be to God."

Once the procession concludes, the deacon chants the Exultet, and, the church remaining lit only by the people's candles and the Paschal candle, the people take their seats for the Liturgy of the Word, which consists of between two and ten readings from the Hebrew Scriptures, detailing the history of the People of God and in particular the story of the Exodus from bondage in Egypt into the Holy Land, which is the Old Testament antetype of the Easter story. After these readings conclude, a fanfare may sound on the organ and additional musical instruments and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent. During this outburst of musical jubilation the congregation's candles are extinguished, the church lights are turned on, and bells rung while the church's decorative furnishings — altar frontals, the reredos, lectern hangings, processional banners, statues and paintings — which had been stripped or covered during Holy Week, are ceremonially replaced and unveiled and flowers are placed on altars and elsewhere. Members of the congregation may have been encouraged to bring flowers which are also brought forward and placed about the sanctuary and side altars. A reading from the Epistle to the Romans is proclaimed. The Alleluia is sung, the Gospel follows, along with a homily.

After the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, any catechumens or candidates for full communion are initated into the church, by baptism, confirmation, respectively. After the baptisms, while the newly baptised are being clothed in white baptismal garments, the congregation renews their baptismal vows. Then all adults baptised at the Easter Vigil, and all adult candidates for full communion are confirmed by the priest celebrant (rather than by the Diocesan Bishop, as in the case of children). The general intercessions follow.

Following the confirmations, the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues as usual.

Eastern Orthodoxy

In the Eastern Orthodox Church the service runs as follows with some minor local variations:

  1. The Midnight Office is served on Holy Saturday shortly before midnight.
  2. All the lights in the church are extinguished. A new fire is struck in the altar and distributed to the people. All the clergy and the people exit the church and process three times around it while singing a hymn.
  3. Before the front doors of the church, ideally at the stroke of midnight, the chief celebrant gives the exclamation for the beginning of Matins. The clergy followed by the people sing the Paschal troparion and the Paschal greeting "Christ is risen!" "Truly He is risen!" is exchanged for the first time. To the singing of the troparion, everyone enters the church.
  4. The rest of Matins is celebrated according to special Paschal rubrics.
  5. The Paschal Hours are sung.
  6. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated as usual, but with special features in commemoration of the feast.

The candles lit near the beginning are held by the people throughout the entire service, just as is done by the newly baptized. At some convenient moment, normally following Matins, the Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom is proclaimed. Following the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy blessed eggs dyed red are usually distributed to the people for the breaking of the fast, and baskets of food for the feast that follows are blessed with holy water. The service is generally finished by about 3:00 a.m.

Oriental Orthodoxy

In the Indian Orthodox Church the Vigil begins in the evening after the service on Good Friday. The faithful spend time in the church reading from the scriptures and singing hymns.

Traditionally, the principal service which corresponds to the Easter Vigil in Eastern and Western rites would be conducted in the early hours of the morning, typically at around 3 a.m. on Sunday. It is still the case in many parts of Kerala, the southern state in India where Christianity is believed to have been brought by St Thomas the Apostle in the first century. In many cities, however, the service is conducted after 6:00 p.m. on Saturday; this is also the case for practical reasons in former Christian lands of the Oriental Orthodox rite which now have Muslim majorities.

Easter marks the change in the set of prayers said and sung before the Eucharist. From Easter to the Feast of the Cross on September 14, the prayers follow the Liturgy of Easter.

A News Of Great Joy! A News Of Great Joy!

Traditionally the Prayers of the Night and Midnight hours are said. Then follows the most dramatic moment in the service, the Announcement, when all the lights in the church are extinguished other than from the Altar candles and those held by those serving at the Altar. The Veil separating the sanctuary from the congregation is drawn aside. The chief celebrant stands in the centre of the sanctuary, holding a cross covered in a red embroidered cloth. This is the cross which has been used in the Good Friday service for the procession commemorating the Carrying of the Cross to Calvary and then ritually embalmed and buried in a small coffin-shaped box behind the Altar, to commemorate the Burial. The chief celebrant is flanked by the altar-servers, holding candles and hand-bells. In a loud voice, the chief celebrant announces to the congregation, “Dearly beloved, I bring you all news of great joy. Our Lord Jesus Christ has resurrected from the dead and defeated His enemies.” Amid the ringing of the hand-bells and church-bells, the congregation responds, "Truly, we believe that He is risen!” This is done three times.

An Indian Orthodox Easter prcoession An Indian Orthodox Easter prcoession

The Easter Procession follows, in which the entire congregation, holding lighted candles, participates with the celebrants and the altar servers. The cross, covered in the red veil, used in the Announcement, is carried in procession around the church. The hymn sung during the procession describes Christ's answer to Mary Magdalene, when she sees him at the tomb and mistakes him for the gardener:

Easter Cross Easter Cross

O Mary! I am the Gardener truly,
I am the One, Who established Paradise.
I am the One Who was killed,
I am the One Who entered the grave.
Touch Me not, for I have not ascended to the Father.
That I have gloriously arisen from that grave,
Give thou this good news to the disciples.

Following this, the chief celebrant "celebrates" the Cross, by blessing the four directions while the Trisagion is said.

The chief celebrant gives the Kiss of Peace, commemorating Christ's wishing peace on the Apostles. This is passed on to the congregation. On this day alone the Kiss of Peace is given twice.

Prayers of the Morning hours follow, and the Holy Qurbana is then conducted as usual.

Since Easter also marks the end of the Great 50-day Lent the Service of Reconciliation (Shubhkono) is also held on this day. Special prayers are said.

Blessings from the Easter Cross Blessings from the Easter Cross

At the end of the service, instead of the normal touching by the Chief Celebrant’s hand of the foreheads of each member of the congregation in blessing, the Easter Cross is used.

The Easter Cross on its stand in the sanctuary The Easter Cross on its stand in the sanctuary

From Easter to the Feast of Ascension, the Easter Cross is moved from the centre of the church to a stand inside the sanctuary. This stand, called Golgotha, is itself shaped as a large cross. The Easter Cross is set on its head and the whole structure looks like a Patriarchal Cross. It had been set up in mid-Lent in the centre of the church and the faithful would kiss the cloth covering it while entering and leaving the church.

Anglican Communion

Although the Easter Vigil is not universal in the Anglican Communion, its use has become far more common in recent decades. Formerly it was only common in parishes in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

The service follows more or less the same form as in the Roman Catholic Church though normally with considerably more music. The current version of the Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, for example, begins the service similarly to the description of the Roman Catholic service above, with some differences in names and custom. For example, the lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures number between three and nine.

The traditions differ mainly in that the service of baptism is held immediately after the reading of the lessons. Traditionally, adults who have not yet been baptised are baptised at this service, although children may be as well. Confirmations occur only when the bishop is present, because, in the Anglican tradition, only a bishop may administer confirmation.

After the service of baptism, the celebrant announces the ancient Easter acclamation "Alleluia! Christ is risen!" to which the people respond "The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!" The Gloria in Excelsis, Te Deum or Pascha Nostrum is then sung.

The service of the Holy Eucharist then continues as usual.

External links


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About Easter, made by MultiMedia | Free content and software

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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