The Great Vigil of Easter is the biggest event of the year in our church. It’s a powerful evening that marks the end of a long Lenten season - a multisensory liturgical experience that incorporates all five senses.
The service begins with a ‘blessing of light’ which is basically a big campfire outside the sanctuary. Then we all light individual candles and carry them into the church where the first part of the ritual takes place in the dark just after sunset. There are five Hebrew Bible readings and some more solemn hymns.
And then, out of nowhere, after a long moment of silence in the candlelit dark, all the lights come on, the organ blares as the brass band plays This is the Feast, incense fills the space, alleluias are shouted, baptisms are celebrated, water is sprinkled, rejoicing hymns are sung, and tears fall on the floor.
It was so bizarre celebrating this year on Zoom. But I’m glad our church kept it engaging and sacred as always (though I can’t say it was even close to the same - it was far better than nothing).
Growing up as a Roman Catholic kid, we never did the Easter vigil. Easter was celebrated on Sunday morning, not Saturday night.
As I reflect on The Great Vigil of Easter, I realize the sacramental nature of celebrating Easter at night. We celebrate the light of the resurrection in the womb of darkness that surrounded the tomb of Jesus a couple of thousand years ago. The same spark ignites us and our world today.
By doing so, this is what we proclaim:
On Easter, Christ's light of resurrection comes in the midst of darkness.
May I proclaim this light in our graven world now. As we all hunker down may we know that something new is being born in the world far bigger and greater than we can imagine.
Christ is risen.
And death never has the last word.
Grace & Godspeed,