Easter Vigil

Worship – despite the arguments of some – is an evolving, living thing.  It changes over time in certain respects, while hopefully always retaining core elements and aspects that we are not at liberty to change (without the risk of altering what we believe, or think we believe).  

Most often this evolution comes in the adding or elimination of different worship services.  While many traditional congregations still celebrate some sort of worship on Maunday Thursday and Good Friday, far fewer continue the ancient practice of worship on Easter Saturday.  This worship was often referred to as the Easter Vigil.  It could be a rather long affair, and it also was a common time for baptisms to occur.  But over time, this worship has fallen out of mainstream practice, probably as people decided that they were too busy, or that expecting people to come to worship four days in a row was unreasonable.
This past Easter Saturday I had the opportunity to participate in a vigil service at Grace Lutheran.  The service began outside just after sundown around a small fire pit.  The Christ candle was lit from this fire, and then individual candles were lit from the Christ candle.  We then followed the Christ candle as it was carried from the courtyard into the sanctuary.  Over the next 75 minutes or so, there were a variety of Scripture readings.  About half-way through the service, the dimmed lights in the nave were turned on.  We received Holy Communion and departed.
The imagery at play here is this.  The Jewish day begins at sundown.  Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty shortly after sunrise on Sunday morning, which means that between sundown Saturday night and sunup Sunday morning, Jesus departed from the tomb.  This service symbolizes meeting Christ as He emerges from the tomb, and as such it anticipates the more common sunrise service that many congregations still enjoy, which corresponds to the women arriving at the tomb Sunday morning.
I think next year I’d like to conduct a vigil service at my congregation.  Does your congregation do this?  Have you participated in one before?  What aspects of it are memorable or meaningful to you?

One Response to “Easter Vigil”

  1. Diane B Says:

    I’ve always thought of Holy Saturday, and never quite knew what to do that day or evening. A vigil service would be very meaningful. Will look forward to one next year. Thank you.

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