If you want to participate in our Church’s greatest and most unique solemnity, attend the Easter Vigil. Most Catholics are accustomed to Masses that are an hour or less, but the Easter Vigil typically lasts two to three times that. Together we keep watch for the resurrection of Christ in a profound way.
Celebrated after nightfall and ending before daybreak on Easter Sunday, the Easter Vigil often takes place at 7:30 or 8pm where daylight savings time is observed. This richly symbolic Mass consists of four parts: The Service of Light, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of Baptism, and Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The Service of Light often begins outside the Church with a “blazing fire” that brings light to the darkness. A new Paschal Candle is brought forth. The priest lights the candle and prays, “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”
This symbol of the light of Christ is processed into a darkened church. We follow with our own unlit candles just as we follow the risen Christ. We then light our candles from the Paschal candle.
The Liturgy of the Word consists of specific readings including Exodus 14:15-15:1 and from two to seven other Old Testament readings as well as two from the New Testament. These readings include the story Genesis 1:1-2; 2; Genesis 11:1-18; Isaiah 54:5-14; Isaiah 55:1-11; Baruch 3:9-15.32-4:4; Ezekiel 36:16-17.18-28; and Romans 6:3-11; and Mark 16:1-7.
The priest sings the Alleluia before the Gospel. The psalmist or cantor also sings Psalm 117 and we respond with, “Alleluia.”
Liturgy of Baptism begins with the blessing of the Easter water. Godparents introduce new members who are then baptized. Catechumens and those who were baptized but have not received sacraments of initiation are confirmed. The faithful throughout the Church are then blessed with water and all renew our baptismal promises.
Liturgy of the Eucharist is the first time the neophytes (new members of the Church) will receive Holy Eucharist. Every communion is an opportunity to take the body and blood of Christ into our own bodies. We hold the Light of the World within our physical and spiritual being.
The longer Mass is a special opportunity to give thanks to our most generous creator, meditate on Scripture, remember the significance of baptism, and celebrate the Eucharist. Our busy lives are greatly blessed when we take the time to invest in our relationship with God.
(The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, Fatima at 100. Fatima Today.)