Keep Watch and Pray on Easter Vigil:
“In Stillness, Earth Awaits The Resurrection.”
By Wendy Butzerin
Holy Saturday – also known as “Easter Vigil” – is the culmination of a 40-day-long observance of Lent. The Season of Lent is a time of preparation before Easter, and Christians use this time to refocus their lives and to draw closer to Jesus through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
At the end of Lent, we remember Jesus’ passion and death throughout Holy Week. We start with Palm Sunday (Jesus Triumphantly Enters Jerusalem), followed by Holy Thursday (The Night of the Last Supper), and then Good Friday (The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus). But it does not end there… Easter Vigil is the night when the Lord Jesus passes from death to life, and Catholics all over the world unite to watch and pray. Those familiar with scripture will recall when Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane before being crucified, and he asked his disciples to watch and pray. Just like the disciples, we too, stay vigilant.
While we are saddened at the suffering and death of Jesus, we are grateful that He died in our place for our sins, and we await the hope of His Resurrection. We live in the hope of being resurrected and living in Heaven someday, which is why all Christians rejoice on Easter Sunday.
Anticipating the joy of Easter Morning, the Easter Vigil happens on the night before and is often celebrated after sundown. The Catholic celebration comes from an ancient tradition that historically was an all-night vigil, not ending until the dawn of Easter Morning. St. Augustine, in the 5th century, said it is the “Mother of all Vigils.” It remains as a longer mass than the regular Sunday mass. (The Vigil is usually a minimum of 2 hours.) While having been shortened, much of the beauty, meaning, and rituals remain today.
When you enter the church, you are given an unlit candle; the celebration starts in darkness, symbolizing Jesus in the tomb.
There are four parts to the Easter Vigil, beginning with the Liturgy of Light.
Liturgy of Light: A bonfire is lit outside the church, symbolizing the flames of light dispelling the darkness. The Easter Candle is then lit, representing Jesus Christ: the Light of the World. All other candles present are lit from this candle until the church is filled with candlelight. The rest of the lights in the church are not yet turned on.
Liturgy of the Word: There are seven readings from the Old Testament, starting with the world’s creation; then, two readings from the New Testament are read. Psalms are interspersed between the readings. These biblical readings remind us of our history and identity. We see through scripture how God has saved His people and, in the last days, sent us His Son as Our Redeemer. The Old Testament readings are read in the darkness with only candlelight. And then! The lights come on in the church, and bells ring right before the New Testament readings! We sing the word “Alleluia. (This is very important because this word is not spoken at all during Lent.) On Easter Vigil, we now will say “Alleluia” again because it is a term of great joy and means “praise the Lord.” We are now filled with triumphant joy at the Resurrection of Jesus!
Baptismal Liturgy: New Christians are baptized, and current members renew their baptismal vows. We welcome the new members into our community who have been journeying in the faith for many months, eagerly waiting a long time for this night.
Liturgy of the Eucharist: Eucharist means “Thanksgiving;” we celebrate the sacrament of communion in our faith community. We are renewed with joy in Jesus’ Resurrection.
If you want to understand more about what Catholics believe, there is no better introduction than the Easter Vigil.
Where can you experience a local Catholic Easter Vigil Mass?
St. Francis of Assisi – April 8th at 8:30 PM -15226 21st Ave SW, Burien
St. Thomas – April 8th at 8:30 PM – 4415 S 140th St, Tukwila,