Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil 1

“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.” Book of Common Prayer, p. 285.

 Episcopal church of the Messiah, Santa Ana California

Episcopal church of the Messiah, Santa Ana California

For the church, the Easter Vigil is one of the most complicated and beautiful services of the year.  The difficulty is that it is only once a year so it is hard to remember all the tiny details from year to year, so sometimes there is more chaos than the church would like. But this is also what adds to its beauty, light and creation coming out of chaos. The service starts with the lighting of the pascal candle from a fire, usually outside of the church and its entering inside into the church in complete darkness.

The deacon carries the pascal candle in as he or she lights the congregation’s candles while singing, “The Light of Christ”, three times, each time a little higher pitch. This is followed by the deacon chanting the beautiful Exsultet.

It is time for me to turn the Exsultet over to someone else. I have loved chanting the Exsultet for over seventeen years. It has been a privilege.  A newer deacon singing the Exsultet this year has been practicing it for two years and so lovingly and beautifully chants it from her heart. The Exsultet is followed by Old Testament readings about God’s history with God’s people. Next come baptisms, crying babies, curious toddlers escaping from their parents still in the dark. Finally, the cacophony of the great noise of bells of every size announce that Christ has risen indeed as all the lights come on, and we see all the flowers of Easter surrounding the inside of the church. Then we celebrate the first new Eucharist of the Easter season.

The service may have some similarity to what the spice bearing women experienced when they came to the empty tomb on that early Easter morning and saw one or two angels in dazzling white telling them that they were the first to know that Jesus had been raised from the dead!

Joanna joannaseibert.com