The Easter Vigil takes place on Holy Saturday. It closes the three days of the Easter Triduum and opens Eastertide on the eve of the liturgical celebration of the feast of Easter, celebrating the glorious resurrection of Christ!
Discover the meaning of the Easter Vigil, of Holy Saturday and of the four liturgical times of the celebration. Learn all about the baptismal rite of catechumens during the Easter Vigil!
Marking the beginning of Eastertide and inaugurating the celebration of the feast of Easter, the Easter Vigil announces the brilliant victory of Christ over death! "Feast of feasts, solemnities of solemnities" (Saint Augustine), it is a prayer vigil in honor of the Lord who symbolizes the expectation and hope of the faithful for the resurrection of Christ and the meeting with the Risen One!
A feast of joy and light, the Easter Vigil is held during the night before Easter Sunday. It celebrates the passage from darkness to light, which is why an Easter fire is lit on the forecourt of churches and the Easter candles are given to the faithful! It is also during this celebration that the baptisms of catechumens take place while the baptized renew the promises of their baptism on this occasion.
The celebration of the Easter Vigil consists of four specific liturgical times, the overall tone of which is joy. Here is the process.
The Liturgy of Light celebrates the resurrected Christ who comes to illuminate our darkness!
The celebration of the Easter Vigil begins at night, on the forecourt of the church: a great fire is lit which is blessed by the priest and which is used to light the Easter candle. This candle, which will remain lit throughout the Easter Season, symbolizes the soul of Christ gathered to his body in the glory of Heaven.
Once lit, the paschal candle is carried in procession to the altar: the priest stops three times proclaiming "Lumen Christie", (Light of Christ), for which the faithful thank God.
Once in the church, the faithful each light their little candle with the flame of the Easter candle, passed from one to the next. We then sing the song of the Exultet, which solemnly announces the Resurrection of Christ!
The Easter Vigil continues with the Liturgy of the Word. This is composed of seven readings from the Old Testament—each followed by a song, psalm, or hymn, and closed with a prayer—then two readings from the New Testament including the gospel.
The seven readings from the Old Testament read during the Easter Vigil recount the great moments in the history of the Jewish people, and the new covenant announced by the prophets.
After these readings, candles are lit, the bells ring, we then sing the song of Glory be to God! Then, the reading of the epistle of Saint Paul reminds us of the great mystery of the resurrection, in which we are called to participate: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. [...] For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him." (Romans 6:4,9)
The Hallelujah that had not been sung during Lent, resonates in turn and the priest then proclaims the gospel of the resurrection: "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen!” (Luke 24:1-12)
During the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the baptisms of catechumens also takes place, after a journey of several years. By their baptism, they are then immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and thus enter into a new life, following Jesus! For the faithful, it is also an opportunity to renew the promises of their baptism.
The baptismal liturgy consists of specific rites: the blessing of water and sprinkling, water symbolizing both life and death, transfigured by the resurrection of Christ!
After their baptism, the baptized are dressed in a white garment, and receive a lit candle, signifying their belonging to Christ and their role as "bearers of light". When the baptized are confirmed during the Easter Vigil, they are then marked with the holy chrism, a sign that the Holy Spirit remains in them!
The last part of the Easter Vigil celebrates the Eucharistic liturgy, that is, the gift of Jesus, with his body and blood, to each of us. This is the culmination of the Easter Vigil, because Christ renews the Easter mystery for us!
"It is a profound joy for us, Lord of the universe, to give thanks to you on this night of Easter, illuminated by the radiant face of the Risen One. Like a long-awaited dawn, you come to dispel our darkness. You make an invincible hope shine where death seemed to triumph. By the light that your Word spreads, you illuminate our tortuous paths. By the water of baptism and the gift of the Spirit, you free us from our idols. Through the sharing of the Eucharist, you make the new man grow in us. May the joy of the angels burst into the sky! Let the joy of the sons of God burst upon the Earth!”
The Easter Vigil is called the “mother of all liturgies”, because it celebrates the resurrection of Christ, heart of the Christian mystery and summit of the entire liturgical year!
This celebration brings us into the Easter Season, as we are called to follow the Risen Christ! Find out about the prayer communities of Hozana in order to follow the one who is "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6)!