The Great Vigil of Easter
liturgy is intended as the first (and arguably, the primary) celebration of Easter in the Book of Common Prayer (pp. 284-95). It is also known as the Great Vigil. The service begins in darkness, sometime between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter, and consists of four parts:
- The Service of Light (kindling of new fire, lighting the Paschal candle, the Exsultet);
- The Service of Lessons (readings from the Hebrew Scriptures interspersed with psalms, canticles, and prayers);
- Christian Initiation (Holy Baptism) or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows; and
Through this liturgy, the Book of Common Prayer recovers an ancient practice of keeping the Easter feast. Believers would gather in the hours of darkness ending at dawn on Easter to hear scripture and offer prayer. This night-long service of prayerful watching anticipated the baptisms that would come at first light and the Easter Eucharist.
Easter was the primary baptismal occasion for the early church to the practical exclusion of all others. This practice linked the meanings of Christ's dying and rising to the understanding of baptism.
Source: A Dictionary of the Episcopal Church
Pick up a candle from St. Andrew's for the Vigil this evening! Click