Catholic Activity: Home Easter Vigil
Here are some suggestions for those who are unable to attend the Easter vigil at their parish. They can, instead, hold their own "vigil" at home, reading these prayers and blessings together as a family. Note that these vigil prayers are from the pre-Vatican II Mass. It would be more appropriate to use a current missal with today's prayers.
Those at home may make the last beautiful preparations before the joy of the Risen Lord. They may be the ones to put the Paschal candle in its place, to remove the shrouds from the statues, to return the planters to the mantel where they decorate it once more with thick green, reminding us all year of the True Vine. The Infant of Prague must have on His Easter cope, and the table must be prepared for the festive Easter breakfast.
Reading the prayers of the Vigil at home (booklets are everywhere available at low cost), the baby-sitting ones will be ready for the return of the others. Perhaps if they have small fry to see to bed, theirs will be the privilege of telling the story that is, for me, the most beautiful of all the Easter stories. It should be the very last thing at night, after prayers, for the staying-at-home little ones. Ours have heard it as they lay in their beds.
It is about Mary Magdalene and how she found Him in the garden on Easter morning. She did not really understand. After all He had said about rising on the third day, still she wept and wrung her hands and looked for Him. Even when she saw the angels it did not dawn on her. Then — she saw Jesus. Thinking He was a gardener, she heard Him say:
"Woman, why art thou weeping? For whom art thou searching?"
And she said: "If it is thou, Sir, that hast carried Him off, tell me where thou hast put Him, and I will take Him away."
Then that lovely moment. He said simply, "Mary."
And she knew.
How tender, the love that inspired them to record this scene. We know that He appeared to His Mother first. It is an ancient tradition in the Church, and St. Teresa of Avila, many others, confirm it. But for us who are sinners, the scene described so carefully is this meeting with the one who was such a great sinner. It should be a part of every child's Easter Eve, and often it will make them weep. But these are fine, good tears, that come because they understand that He loves them.
If the parish Vigil is early, perhaps some children will attend, or at least be permitted to stay up until their parents return. In this case, those at home could read the prayers of Blessing for the New Fire and the Paschal Candle (unless someone has successfully returned with the already blessed new fire). A new fire can be kindled at home, with a flint, by using a cigarette lighter. (I would never have known, if someone hadn't pointed it out.) Each time it is lighted, it is a new fire. The Blessing for the New Fire is a beautiful prayer.
V. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit. Let us pray. O God, who through Thy Son, the corner stone, hast bestowed on the faithful the fire of Thy glory, sanctify this new fire produced from a flint for our use; and grant that by this paschal festival we may be so inflamed with heavenly desires, that with pure minds we may come to the feast of perpetual light. Through the same Christ Our Lord. R. Amen.
(Sprinkle fire with holy water.)
We make a hole for each of the five cloves to go in the Paschal candle, by piercing the candle with a hot skewer; then we insert the cloves, light the candle with the new fire, and read the prayer for the Blessing of the Paschal Candle.
V. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit. Let us pray. May the abundant infusion of Thy blessing descend upon this lighted Candle, we beseech Thee, almighty God: and do Thou, O invisible regenerator, look down on it, shining in the night; that not only the sacrifice that is offered this night may shine by the secret mixture of Thy light: but also into whatsoever place anything of this mystically blessed object shall be brought, there the power of Thy majesty may be present, and all the malice of satanic deceit may be driven out. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
(Sprinkle the candle with holy water.)
These blessings are out of context. Their place is in the Easter Vigil. We use them here, as we said, to inspire those at home and reflect some of the joy of the rites at the church. Used as prayers, simple petitions made by lay priests asking God's blessing on their domestic sacramentals, they should still bring down His blessing.
The Prophecy from the Book of Jonas (3:1-10) is no longer used in the shorter form of the restored Easter Vigil, but it is an excellent reading for children left at home, especially if they have used the Jonas project described as part of their Lenten activity. The Litany of the Saints is another prayer used in the Vigil which is especially appropriate for those at home. Our children are more than ever enthusiastic about the Litany since we learned to sing it — or at least to sing the invocations to saints, followed by "Pray for us." How did we learn to sing it? A priest friend sang a few lines of it. It was that easy. Why it didn't occur to us to ask someone to sing it long ago, no one knows. If only the Trapp Family lived next door, we keep saying. But they don't, so we plod along.
If it is still early enough in the evening for the little ones to be up, the renewal of baptismal vows is a perfect ending to their vigil at home. If this is not possible, perhaps the baby-sitter would like to make this the climax of his, or her, evening, when the family returns from church, having just renewed theirs. If possible, provide blessed candles to be lighted and held by those renewing their vows.
Leader: My dearest Brethren, Holy Mother Church, recalling the death and burial of our Lord Jesus Christ, watches during this most holy night and loves Him in return; at the same time, she celebrates His glorious Resurrection, and gladly rejoices.
For the Apostle teaches us that we are indeed buried together with Christ by baptism unto death; that, as Christ is risen from the dead, so we also ought to walk in newness of life; we know that our old man has been crucified with Christ, that we may serve sin no longer. Let us reckon that we are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Therefore, my dearest Brethren, now the Lenten observance is over, let us renew the vows of our Holy Baptism, by which we have of old renounced Satan and his works, and also the world, which is the enemy of God, and promised to serve God faithfully in the holy Catholic Church.
Leader. Do you renounce Satan? Response. We do renounce him. L. And all his work? R. We do renounce them. L. And all his pomps? R. We do renounce them. L. Do you believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? R. We do believe. L. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born and who suffered? R. We do believe. L. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting? R. We do believe. L. Let us now with one voice pray God, as our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us to pray. R. (All say the Our Father together and aloud.) L. And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has caused us to be born again by water and the Holy Ghost, and granted us the remission of sins, Himself keep us by His grace in the same Christ Jesus our Lord unto eternal life. R. Amen.
(All bless themselves with holy water.)
This form of renewal of baptismal vows may also be used, without the introductory passages referring to Lent, when children renew their baptismal vows at a family feast celebrating their Baptism or a patron saint's feast day, or the feast of Pentecost. A renewal at home at least once a year is a beautiful family rite, and the ideal way to teach children an awe and love for their Baptism.
Activity Source: Year and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1956