Challenge Grant: Our Boosters will match donations up to $45,000. We have $38,445 to go. Please donate!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Catholic Activity: Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil liturgy is the most beautiful liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church. This walks through the Easter Vigil, and includes the words to the Exsultet.

DIRECTIONS

Although celebrated Holy Saturday evening, it is the dramatic Easter vigil liturgy that marks the beginning of Easter. We are awaiting our master's return with our lamps full and burning, so that he will find us awake and seat us at his table (cf. Luke 12:35ff). All Catholics should try to attend this beautiful service. The vigil is divided into four parts:

  1. Service of Light,
  2. Liturgy of the Word,
  3. Liturgy of Baptism, and
  4. Liturgy of the Eucharist.

1) Service of Light The atmosphere in the church is different: the holy water fonts are drained, all the lights are out, the tabernacle is empty. The service begins outside the church. A new fire is lit and blessed.

A Paschal Candle is prepared with these words while the priest marks the candle:

Christ yesterday and today (vertical arm of the cross)
the Beginning and the End (horizontal arm of the cross)
the Alpha (alpha above the cross)
and the Omega (omega below the cross)
All time belongs to him (numeral 2 in upper left corner of cross)
and all the ages (numeral 1 in upper right corner of cross)
To him be glory and power (numeral 4 in lower left corner)
through every age and for ever. Amen (numeral 0 in lower right corner)

Then the priest may insert five grains of incense into the candle in the form of a cross, meanwhile saying:
1. By his holy
2. and glorious wounds,
3. may Christ the Lord
4. guard us
5. and protect us. Amen.

The priest lights the candle from the new fire, saying:

May the light of Christ, rising in glory,
dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

The candle is then processed through the church, with the deacon lifting the candle at three different times, singing: The Light of Christ. (or Lumen Christi) and the congregation sings in reply: Thanks be to God (or Deo gratias). Everyone lights their candle from the Easter candle and continue in procession until the whole church is alight. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World.

Next follows the glorious Easter song of the Catholic Church: the Exsultet (Easter proclamation). "This magnificent hymn, which is remarkable for its lyric beauty and profound symbolism, announces the dignity and meaning of the mystery of Easter; it tells of man's sin, of God's mercy, and of the great love of the Redeemer for mankind, admonishing us in turn to thank the Trinity for all the graces that have been lavished upon us" (©1947 With Christ Through the Year, by Bernard Strasser). This is usually sung by the deacon.

Exsultet (excerpted)

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exults,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples....

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and your servants' hands.
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when thing of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night,
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

For more information about this ancient part of the Easter Vigil Liturgy, please see The Exsultet from the Catholic Culture Library.

2) Liturgy of the Word

During the Easter vigil, nine readings are provided: seven Old Testament and two New Testament. Not all are required to be read due to time constraints, but at least three Old Testament readings must be read, including Exodus 14. These readings help us meditate on the wonderful works of God for his people since the beginning of time. The readings are:

  1. the story of creation, Gen 1:1-2; 2;
  2. Abraham and Isaac, Gen 22:1-18;
  3. Crossing of the Red Sea, Exodus 14:15–15:1;
  4. Isaiah 54:5-14;
  5. Isaiah 55:1-11;
  6. Baruch 3:9-15.32–4:4;
  7. Ezekiel 36:16-17.18-28;
  8. Romans 6:3-11; and
  9. Gospel reading Mark 16:1-7.

    The Gloria is sung before the reading of the Epistle of the Romans, and the Alleluia is sung before the Gospel.

    3) Liturgy of Baptism

    During this time the Easter water is blessed, new members are brought into the Church through baptism, part of the liturgy includes the Litany of the Saints. Afterwards the faithful are blessed with water and all renew their baptismal promises.

    4) Liturgy of Eucharist

    So resumes the Mass, with the special prayers inserted during the Eucharist Prayer. The whole church is called to join at the sacrificial table that Christ prepared for us through his death and resurrection. The Mass ends with the glorious

    V. The Mass is ended, go in peace, alleluia, alleluia. R. Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia.

    Jennifer Gregory Miller Jennifer G. Miller

    Activity Source: Original Text (JGM) by Jennifer Gregory Miller, © Copyright 2003-2014 by Jennifer Gregory Miller

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Ignatius Press into the Breach: Trumping the Kasper Proposal 5 hours ago
Has the Vatican finally discovered how to avoid inaccurate English translations? 9 hours ago
The Synod: It's a Wrap! October 21
A chaotic synod? Not in its results October 21
Cardinal Kasper's unsubtle threat October 21

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Key synod report calls for 'gradualism' in Church response to irregular family situations CWN - October 13
As synod concludes, bishops issue message, approve document; Pope weighs in CWN - October 20
Cardinal Parolin: UN must protect innocents from Islamic State CWN - September 30
Synod of Bishops opens with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica CWN - October 6