The Great Easter Vigil
Great Easter Vigil
Because the new liturgical day begins at sunset, the vigil begins between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday outside the church, where an Easter fire is kindled and the Paschal candle is blessed and then lit. This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, remaining in the sanctuary of the church or near the lectern, and throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, reminding all that Christ is “light and life.”
Once the candle has been lit there follows the ancient and dramatic rite of the Lucernarium, in which the candle is carried by a deacon through the nave of the church, itself in complete darkness, stopping three times to chant the acclamation ‘Light of Christ’ (Lumen Christi), to which the assembly responds ‘Thanks be to God’ or ‘Deo Gratias’. As the candle proceeds through the church, all present (i.e. those who have received the “Light of Christ”) receive candles, which are lit from the Paschal candle. As this symbolic “Light of Christ” spreads throughout those gathered, the darkness is decreased.
The service continues with the telling of the story of salvation through the ages and concludes with the Eucharist, the first Eucharist since the crucifixion on Good Friday, symbolizing Christ’s glorious resurrection.