Vigil of Easter

For me, the Easter Vigil is an amazing celebration of Heilsgeschichte (salvation-history). The Lutheran Church describes the vigil this way:

This is the night! This is our Passover with Christ from darkness to light, from captivity to freedom, from death to life. Tonight is the heart of our celebration of the Three Days and the pinnacle of the church's year. The resurrection of Christ is proclaimed in word and sign, and we gather around a pillar of fire, hear ancient stories of our faith, welcome new sisters and brothers at the font, and share the food and drink of the promised land. Raised with Christ, we go forth into the world, aflame with the good news of the resurrection. (sundaysandseasons.com)

Tonight, on the Vigil of Easter, we watch and wait for the return of the light. Holding candles, thanking God for light and for servants of the light, we recall God's creative and saving acts in history: the creation, the flood, Abraham and Isaac, salvation promises in Isaiah, Jonah and the whale, Shadrach/Meshach/Abednego and the firey furnace...and then, in continuity with all of God's saving acts, we hear the story of the empty tomb: God's ultimate saving act.

And then, recalling Christ's passage from death to life, we recall our baptisms. In Romans, we read
3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Tonight, we approach the font, having the sign of the cross traced on our foreheads on water, symbolically washing away the cross of ashes that was marked on our foreheads 6 weeks ago on Ash Wednesday. And, having thus been raised along with Christ, we celebrate the first mass of the new church year - the first mass of Easter. And so when we come to the table, and when hear the words "This is Christ's body broken for you and his blood shed for you," we remember our journey through Holy Week: Christ's words at the last supper on Maundy Thursday and Christ's body broken on the cross on Good Friday.

And so,this night, we pass from dark to light, from death to life, from mourning into joy. We hold vigil in the dark, anticipating God's new dawn!

From the Easter Vigil liturgy:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, on this most holy night
when our Savior Jesus Christ passed from death to life,
we gather with the church throughout the world
in vigil and prayer. This is the passover of Jesus Christ.
Through light and the word, through water and oil,
bread and wine, we proclaim Christ's death and resurrection,
share Christ's triumph over sin and death,
and await Christ's coming again in glory.

Eternal giver of life and light,
this holy night shines with the radiance of the risen Christ.
Renew your church with the Spirit given us in baptism,
that we may worship you in sincerity and truth
and may shine as a light in the world,
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds wonderful, and I know it can be wonderful, but when you've had a funeral on Thursday afternoon, the Maundy Thursday liturgy that night, the Good Friday liturgy the next morning, another funeral on Saturday afternoon, you'll have a sunrise service at 7 a.m. Easter morning out at the cemetery and the big Easter Sunday service with the choir cantata at 10:30 a.m. ...

    When you've tried to come up with sermons for all of those services ...

    When you're trying to help you wife get the house in order and get prepared for Easter dinner with her family ...

    Well, lets just say I don't miss the Vigil of Easter service.