My First Easter Vigil

My husband has been talking about attending an Easter Vigil since we started dating.  Unfortunately, since most churches don’t have this service, we never had an opportunity to attend a vigil service.  Not this year!  Much to my husband’s happiness, his field work church has an Easter Vigil every year and we were staying town for Easter.  I, on the other hand, wasn’t convinced about vigiling the night before Easter.  Much like crossing myself or wearing crucifixes, I thought of a vigil as “too Catholic” (a distinction that I use a lot and my husband has never understood).  However, since I have spent the last three Easters hearing about how great attending this service would be, I decided to check it out.

This Easter Vigil was divided into six small services.  The first service was the Service of Light, where the congregation enters the church following the paschal candle.  At this point, the lights in the sanctuary were dimmed, I believe to remind us that Christ still lay in the tomb.  The second service was the Service of Readings, where passages from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, and Daniel were read.  The third service was the Service of Holy Baptism, where the congregation restated parts of the baptismal liturgy to remind them of their own baptism.  The fourth service was the Service of Prayer, where the Litany of the Resurrection was said–lots of “Have mercy” stated.

Then came one of the most beautiful transitions into Easter I have ever seen.  The fifth service was the Service of the Word, where the first “Alleluia!” of the Easter season was proclaimed and the lights turned back on to full brightness.  During the hymn of praise (“I Know That My Redeemer Lives”) the altar was stripped of the Good Friday black and replaced with the Easter white.  During this service there was also a sermon focusing on God’s promise to Abraham that “Your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,” (Genesis 22:17b)–surprise, the enemy is death and Jesus has now conquered death!–and on Joesph of Arimathea’s faith .  Pretty cool stuff.  The sixth and final service was the Service of Holy Communion, where we had the Lord’s Supper.

There are many reasons why people might shy away from attending an Easter Vigil–it’s too long (the one I went to took an hour and 45 minutes), it’s too hard to go to church that many times in one week (which I totally understand, I missed the Maundy Thursday service), it’s too Catholic, and so on.  However, if you ever have an opportunity to go to a vigil I would encourage you to at least try it.  It was a clear and beautiful way to leave the gloom of Good Friday behind and enter joyfully into the Easter season.  And on that note, Happy Easter to you all!  Christ has risen!  Alleluia!

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