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Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil (Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter), is the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. This is done as a pious service in the traditional Christian churches all over the world during Easter. History says that during Vigil, the people are baptized and the adult catechumens are taken into complete communion with the Holy Church.

Vigil takes place during the dark hours between Holy Saturday sunset and Easter Day sunrise. The most common time for Easter Vigil is during the evening of Holy Saturday or midnight. This is the first ceremony of celebrating Easter, traditionally it used to take place during sunset on the previous day.

Significance of Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil is considered as the most important service of public reverence and Masses of the liturgical year. It is religiously followed and attended by the western churches, namely Catholic Church, Lutheran churches, and the Anglican Communion. Easter Vigil started since the beginning of Lent of the "Alleluia", which is a specialty of the Easter season.

Easter Vigil is celebrated in an elaborate and festive way amongst Oriental Orthodox churches, Eastern Orthodox churches, and other traditional sects of Eastern Christianity. The celebrations are done along with the Divine Liturgy on the same night and are a very important event of the liturgical year.

How is Easter Vigil Done?

It is celebrated on Holy Saturday evening. This dramatic event marking the beginning of Easter, expects the return of Christ with the lamps burning, so that he shall find his followers awake and gather them at the dinner table. This beautiful service procedure is divided into four parts, namely Service of Light, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of Baptism, and Liturgy of the Eucharist.

  1. Service of Light– This service begins outside the church where the holy waters are all emptied, lights are shut and the tabernacle is hollowed. A new, blessed fire is lit and a Paschal Candle is prepared. The priest then marks the candle in various cross formations dedicated to the arrival of Christ. The next step is when the priest inserts five grains of incense into the candle forming a cross sign that says “By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ the Lord guard us and protect us. Amen.” He further chants the holy lines by lighting the candle from the new fire in a hope that this new light will dispel the darkness from the hearts and minds. The candle is then taken to all the corners of the church with the followers singing the song “The Light of Christ.” Followed by this procession, the glorious Easter song “The Exsultet (Easter proclamation)” is sung by all, headed by the deacon.
  2. Liturgy of the Word– After the service of Light is completed; Easter vigil goes forward the next step where nine readings are provided from the Testaments - Seven readings from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. Usually, all the nine readings are not read due to time constraints, but at least three from Old Testament are compulsory including the Exodus 14. Two songs are sung in this phase of Vigil. The Gloria is sung just before reading the Epistle of the Romans, and just before the Gospel, the Alleluia is sung.
  3. Liturgy of Baptism– This is the third phase of the Vigil, where the Easter water is sprinkled on the mass as blessings as they enter the Church through baptism, a section of the liturgy is included in the Litany of the Saints. Later, the all the people gathered are blessed with water and their baptismal promises are renewed.
  4. Liturgy of Eucharist– This marks the end of the Vigil, where the mass says special prayers mentioned as Eucharist Prayer. The entire church followers and its member are invited upon to join at the sacrificial table. This table is believed to be created by The Christ through his death and resurrection. The Easter Vigil Mass ends with the famous song “The Mass is ended, go in peace, alleluia, alleluia. R. Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia.”

Easter Vigil is the event where everyone shows their fellowship and brotherhood for each other. They join together to eat and drink Christ’s blood and flesh, followed by a meditating time, where everyone prays together. Christians consider this to be the best time of the night as they learn and feel about Jesus and about his Holy deeds. Having blessings from the Easter Cross is another vital occurrence during Easter Vigil and this denotes the end of the Mass. Each of the church members is blessed with the Easter Cross by touching it on their foreheads.

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