On this Easter Saturday, Fr Paul shares a narrative about the history, significance of the Easter Vigil ceremony which we celebrate this evening. He invites us all to come along and be part of the special experience he describes.

Fr Paul says the feast of the Resurrection of Christ is the greatest and oldest in the Church. Its importance has been emphasised liturgically by the long preparation for it called ‘Lent’ and ‘Holy Week’. The word ‘Alleluia’, a liturgical expression of praise, is now used again to express the Easter joy – Christ is risen.

In the ancient church the people wanting to become Catholic were baptised and they received holy communion on Easter Sunday after keeping vigil all Saturday night. The origin of the name ‘Easter’ is uncertain. According to one source, ‘Easter’ is connected with the spring goddess ‘Eostre’. At any rate it seems clear that, like Christmas, the Christian feast of Easter superseded an old pagan festival.

The Easter Vigil Ceremony
This is the principal celebration of Easter. It is traditionally observed during the night of Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday. There is clear evidence from the 2nd Century of a combined Good Friday/Easter ceremony and in the 4th Century the two were separated and the Vigil ceremony developed having the resurrection of Christ as its centre and reason for celebration.

The basic pattern of the ceremony has remained virtually unchanged throughout the ages. The following details how it is celebrated in the church today:

The Service of Light
This part at the beginning of the ceremony commemorates the resurrection of Christ – light of the world.

In this part of the ceremony a fire is used to light the Easter (Paschal) Candle. The fire symbolises purification, newness & light. The candle is then prepared. It has on it a cross and the new year eg, 2024. At the top, it has the Greek letters Alpha (the beginning) and at the bottom it has the Omega (the end) symbolising to us that Jesus is the beginning and the end. Then five grains of incense are inserted into the candle to signify the wounds of Christ. (each hand, the feet, the crown of thorns and the spear wound in his side).

With the candle prepared and lit the priest moves through the church declaring that Christ is our light. The people’s candles are lit from the Paschal Candle. Then the Easter Proclamation, the Exsultet is sung expressing our joy that Christ is risen and we have been saved.

The Liturgy of the Word
The church meditates on all the wonderful things God has done for his people from the beginning of time. There are nine readings that are available for this part of the ceremony.
The Old Testament ones tell of:
• the story of creation (Genesis 1:1-2;2)
• Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, his only son (Genesis 22:1-18)
• the exodus through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-15:1); and
• the prophecies of redemption (Isaiah 54:5-14; Isaiah 55:1-11; Baruch 3:9-15; 32-4:4; Ezekiel 36:16-28).

The New Testament one tells of Christ’s resurrection and our baptism (Rom 6:3-11).

The Gospel is one of the accounts of the resurrection.

Liturgy of Baptism
New members of the church are welcomed by being baptised and confirmed and existing members of the church call to mind their own baptism by renewing their baptismal promises.

This is done after the Litany and the blessing of the water. The water is used because it symbolises the fact that we need water to live and that it we use it to wash ourselves clean. It is the same with Christ. We celebrate that he died and rose from the dead so that we might have life and be cleansed of our sins.

Liturgy of the Eucharist (Communion)
The whole church is then called to the table which the Lord prepared for his people through his death and resurrection.

That makes up the celebration of the Easter Vigil, to which Fr Paul cordially invites you the Easter Vigil to experience this holy night. Easter Sunday Masses are being celebrated as well where we renew our baptism promises.

Fr Paul looks forward to celebrating one of the Easter ceremonies with you to celebrate the true meaning of Easter, the resurrection of Christ – He is risen Alleluia, Alleluia!