This ancient service begins in the Gathering Space, and continues with a candlelit processional into the darkened church. We remember our Baptism, our Savior God, and his death. The second half of the service bursts forth in Easter joy as we begin the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord. Easter Holy Communion is served.
The Day: In the early church, the Saturday of Holy Week was called the “Great Sabbath.” It was a day of meditation, fasting, and reflection in preparation for Easter. The Easter Vigil has been celebrated regularly since the days of Constantine the Great (300 A.D.)
The Service: It is called a “vigil” because it is a service of watching and waiting, using prayer, Scripture, and hymns. It is composed of four parts: The service of light, the service of lessons, the service of baptism, and the service of Holy Communion.
The Vigil remembers the great Passover of God. On the night when the 10th plague, the plague of the firstborn, struck the land of Egypt, God promised to deliver all his people whose doors were marked by the blood of a Passover lamb. God’s judgment would pass over them.
Centuries later, God fulfilled that first Passover, with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God during the Passover feast. Now we are assured that because of the blood of that Lamb, God’s judgment passes over us.
Vigils remain a popular service, but are often thought of in other ways. Our Christmas Eve services and New Year’s Eve services are modern-day vigils. Even Easter sunrise services have their roots in the historic service we observe tonight.