Catholic News Agency
The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday, is the high point of the Easter Triduum, celebrating the passion and resurrection of Jesus.
This year, the vigil will take place on the evening of April 15.
With a rich display of symbols, rites and readings, the church in worship expresses her faith in the mystery that brings her into being.
The vigil opens with a service of light. Like the Jewish Passover, our Easter celebration coincides with the beginning of spring, when the sun offers new warmth and earth is ready to flower again. Our words “lent” (from the Middle-English word for spring, “lengthening days”) and “Easter” (possibly Germanic or Anglo-Saxon in origin, signifying “the east”, “the rising sun”) point to the long tradition of seeing this holy mystery through signs of the natural world.
The lighting of the fire and the Easter candle go back to rites that long preceded Christianity. The candle, carried with loving reverence and lyrically praised in word and song, is a sign of Christ, “the light of the world,” and celebrates the victory of light over darkness that humanity has ever longed for.
A series of readings recalls the great interventions of God in history, from creation to the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and ends with the story of Jesus’ resurrection. The great “alleluia” proclaims with quiet joy the triumph of God’s Son. Those preparing for baptism then receive the sacraments of initiation. The blessed water sprinkled over others signifies the blessing of new life.
This night brings the faithful before the deepest symbols of Christian hope and fear. The darkness is a sign of evil and death which has been overcome by the light. The Easter candle is lit, symbolizing a fire enkindled in the hearts of the faithful. The waters of baptism then destroy what is unclean and brings to life again.
The night is fundamentally a time to rejoice in Christ and God’s promise of life.