March 23, 2016
I would like to share with you some thoughts about the Easter Vigil.
We have journeyed through several weeks of Lent to prepare ourselves for this celebration of Easter. The special Masses and services of Holy Week allow us to walk with Jesus through his Passion and Death. We celebrate the institution of the Blessed Eucharist on Holy Thursday; we celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday; then on Holy Saturday, we celebrate the Easter Vigil.
The Easter Vigil is an evening service and Mass that is filled with the excitement and praise in celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The thrill of the Resurrection of Jesus comes as a glorification of Jesus. Jesus comes to new life. Jesus lives. Jesus always lives.
The Easter Vigil service and Mass is the holiest, most meaningful celebration of the entire liturgical year of the Catholic Church. I sincerely encourage you to attend and participate in this Easter Vigil. In days gone by, there was a belief that Jesus would return in the Second Coming on this Easter Vigil, so, the vigil service lasted all night until the early morning. Many communities still celebrate a sunshine service of the Resurrection. The Easter Vigil does not last that long now.
The Easter Vigil involves the celebration of Baptism, especially the Baptism of those who have chosen to become members of the Catholic Church. During this Mass, the priest blesses again the Baptismal Font in the Church and the water that will be used in the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism.
Easter is about Resurrection, the Resurrection of Jesus to new life. The Sacrament of Baptism is a celebration of our new life in the Lord, a rebirth in the Spirit of our God.
The Easter Vigil is the anniversary of our Baptism, everyone’s anniversary of Baptism. So, in preparation for the Baptism of the catechumens at the Vigil, we all renew our Baptismal promises, our readiness to follow Jesus and to reject all that keeps us from the following of Jesus.
The services that initiate the Easter Vigil are a very dramatic ritual to prepare us to celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection. The Church is in darkness. The pastor and the services go out of doors in the front of the Church. (I encourage all of you to join them outside for these beginning ritual.)
First there is the lighting of the new fire. Jesus’ Resurrection is like a new blaze that enters our world and Church. Something new is happening. The new Paschal candle is lit and this candle will be burning throughout the Easter season. The priest or deacon carries the Paschal candle into the darkened Church. The people of the congregation light their candles from the new Paschal candle, the symbol of the resurrected Jesus.
The darkened Church bursts into light. At this moment, as the new Paschal candle is placed in the sanctuary, the solemn Exultet is sung. This hymn of praise is sung in honor and praise of our Savior. This is a proclamation to all that Christ is risen, indeed he has risen.
Then follows the readings of Sacred Scripture. At this special Vigil Mass, there are several readings going back to Genesis, the message of creation. Then we hear the readings of the Hebrew Exodus, the story of Moses who took the Hebrew people from slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land. Jesus leads our Exodus to the mercy and love of God by his living among us, suffering for us, dying on the cross and rising to new life.
Then the Easter Glory is sung is praise and exultation of God. Next, the Gospel acclamation is sung. This is the powerful Great Alleluia as the reality of the Resurrection is proclaimed and joyfully announced. Then the Easter Gospel is read which calls us to remember the discovery of the empty tomb. The stone has been removed from the front of the cave of burial of Jesus and The Resurrection is fully evident to us all.
The Easter Vigil is a powerful liturgy that will fill each one of us with the joy and the happiness of Jesus’ Resurrection.
The message is that one day each of us will share in this new life in our own Resurrection.