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Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil

At nightfall on Holy Saturday, the Sabbath is over. The first day of the week begins. After the Sabbath, according to custom, the first work to be done is to make a fire and to kindle the evening lamp. That is what the church does. That is how the Easter Vigil begins. On this night, every member of the church is asked to gather with the soon-to-be-baptized.

The Great Vigil begins after sundown on the eve of Easter. It is called a vigil, because we keep watch for the joyful celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. It is the time when the church celebrates the first Mass of Easter (just as Christmas Eve Mass is the first Mass of Christmas).

The Vigil begins around a bonfire. In its light the Church proclaims that Christ is our Light! From the new fire, the Paschal Candle is lighted and carried into a darkened church. All who are assembled light their candles from the Light of Christ until the entire church is radiant with the soft glow of candle light. The darkness has been banished!

At this point the minister will place the Paschal Candle in its special stand and the cantor sing the Exsultet, a great and ancient hymn praising Christ as the One True Light. Then the story of salvation is retold, beginning with the Book of Genesis. After the final reading from the Old Testament, the Gloria is sung and the other lights in the Church are brought up as the assembly sings a joyous song of praise for the first time since Ash Wednesday.

The liturgy continues with the Epistle, Gospel and homily. The celebrant then announces the end of the Lenten fast and begins the Baptismal rite during which the faithful will renew their Baptismal Covenant.

Following the Liturgy of Baptism, the first Mass of Easter is celebrated. This liturgy begins the Church's fifty-day reflection on the glory of salvation won for us by the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus the Christ.

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