Preparing for Easter Vigil

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Preparing for Easter Vigil

Please join us for the Easter Vigil. The service begins at 8:00PM at Grace Lutheran Church on Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017. Some of our fellow members from neighboring Lutheran churches will be joining us. We will gather in the church courtyard, then process into the church. This service is brought for-ward from the liturgy of the early church. All are welcome to attend this comforting service of our Lord’s resurrection—and the anticipation of our own resurrection.

Many Lutheran churches are recovering the ancient practice of the Easter Vigil, which, interestingly enough, is something the Lutheran Church in Germany brought back for the entire Western Church. The liturgical renewal that arose in the German Lutheran Churches after World War I rediscovered the Easter Vigil in its reformational form. Since then the Easter Vigil has experienced a revival in many parishes throughout Germany. This renewal within the German Lutheran Churches contributed to a revival of the Roman Catholic order for the Easter Vigil in 1951. The rite for our Easter Vigil is found in the Lutheran Service Book Agenda.

The Great Vigil of Easter is actually a compilation of services set end-to-end, each building on the former, until finally Easter formally arrives. As a service of watching that ushers in the resurrection, the vigil of Easter is comprised of six parts. We begin with the Service of Light, proceed into the Service of Readings, the Service of Holy Baptism, and the Service of Prayer. At Grace, we finish the Vigil with the Easter Gospel in the Service of the Word, reserving the Service of the Sacrament for Easter Sunrise.

Beginning at dusk, the congregation gathers around an open fire for the Service of Light. The paschal candle is lit from the fire. We light our candles from the paschal candle and begin our procession. Holding the paschal candle aloft, the assistant sings: “The Light of Christ!” We reply: “Thanks be to God!” Once in the church, the solemn Exsultet is chanted, a beautiful and melodious proclamation of Easter’s arrival. There is high ceremony here, done with purpose: we are witnessing and partaking in the celebration of the renewal of all creation in the resurrection of our Lord.

The Service of Readings follows, in which several Old Testament readings foretelling this grand event are read. We are invited to listen to Old Testament stories of God’s love affair with the human race. And we’ll know that all of this was not about some other people and some other time, but about us and our God and His gifts.
Then follows the Service of Baptism—a calling to mind of Baptism for all in attendance. This follows fittingly, since it is through Baptism that we have be-come participants in the renewal of creation.

The Service of Prayer marks our final preparations for Easter. After the Easter Litany, the lights come up and we begin our celebration with the Service of the Word. We hear the Easter gospel, then the Easter Acclamation: Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! The service ends with the Benediction, which has not been heard since the beginning of the Triduum. We close the service anticipating the Service of Holy Communion on Easter morning.

Our crescendo of rejoicing continues at the sunrise service, when in the bright array of the morning sun we recall the moment in which the women at the tomb and Jesus’ disciples first learned of His resurrection. Easter Sunrise is more festive still than the last part of the Great Vigil. Now we are in full-throated song and music, and our hearts sing in glad harmony with our voices as we celebrate the Service of the Sacrament.

The best way to gain the full effect of this great liturgical Feast is to witness it from the start of the Triduum on Maundy Thursday through Good Friday, when the Church is at its darkest and most somber. From the deepest depths to the highest heights we go in just three days, as the liturgy of the Church mimics Christ Himself, who went through death to resurrection. So we sing a mournful tune during the Holy Three Days, but it gives way to a heady rejoicing when we celebrate that Easter has come, and with it, our victory. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Adapted from Gottesdienst.org—The Journal of Lutheran Liturgy and from Lutheran Service Book—Altar Book.

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