Easter Vigil 2
“How blessed is this night when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.” Exsultet, Book of Common Prayer, p. 287.
I revisit this past Holy Week and remember some wonderful stories of the excitement of the Easter Vigil at each of the churches where I have served. I remember one priest telling us at his homily many years ago that our presence at the Vigil didn’t give us extra points with God for being there, getting more stars in our crown. It was simply a privilege to be some of the first at the empty tomb to meet the risen Lord.
One of my favorite surprises was waiting to see how the altar guild would often decorate my larger harp for the Easter Vigil.
Many congregations then follow the Vigil service with an elaborate reception or dinner late at night at church or at someone’s home.
Once at Trinity Cathedral as the deacon tilted the candle ever so slightly to light its wick from the first fire, oil ran out of the top of the candle and the fire became surreal, like the tongues of fire described at Pentecost. At St. Margaret’s we did the Vigil in the Columbarium garden and I played a smaller lap harp as I sang the Exsultet to stay on key. I cannot describe the feeling of shouting out in the great outdoors, “The Lord has risen indeed!
At St. Luke’s one of my favorite lectors reading of one of the Old Testament lessons was having difficulty seeing in the dark in the middle of the long reading and put her candle closer to the microphone at the lectern catching the foam covering over the microphone on fire. She so elegantly blew the fire out and didn’t miss a beat in the reading. Also at St. Luke’s one of the amazing teachers of the children ministries and her two children planned a flashlight egg hunt for older children after the Vigil outside around the church which was a huge success as well as increasing the number of young people at the service!
The Vigil is so unusual, however, that it also is so easy to get caught up in the many tiny details of this once a year liturgy and view it as a performance rather than an offering. The Vigil is a service to be enjoyed and celebrated. We can always count on the Vigil to bring surprises just like the risen Lord.