A Few Thoughts on the Easter Vigil
The first part of this greatest of all celebrations should feel like a vigil, a time of waiting. Although many parishes reduce the number of readings for pastoral considerations of time and length, the richness of listening to the story of salvation history is diminished by abbreviating it. Listening and responding to the stories by the light of the paschal candle, the light of Christ, reinterprets these Old Testament readings in the Christian perspective. The readings set the context for the rest of the celebration to follow. There are many good psalm settings available to enable the community’s responses. Some have lively settings that engage the assembly; some set all the psalms and responses to the same melody to achieve participation through repetition and familiarity.
This is a good occasion to do a grand procession with the Book of the Gospels. The sacramentary specifies that incense may be used, but not candles. I actually would have no other candles in the sanctuary for this celebration and throughout the Easter Time so that the image of Christ our Light in the grand paschal candle may carry the impact. The baptismal candles of course are lighted from this source just as the candles of the faithful were lighted from the paschal candle at the beginning of the liturgy before the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet).
Leading up to the actual baptisms, the candidates and their godparents are to be led to the font following the paschal candle while the Litany of Saints is sung. I have experienced this where the procession went around the inside perimeter of the church to emphasize the journey to the font and to make the litany a true accompaniment to the procession. If possible, incorporate into the litany the names of the patronal saints of those being initiated.
The baptismal font should be highlighted with flowers to accentuate it for this liturgy and throughout the Easter Time. Any decor should be placed in such a way so that it does not impede the actions of the rituals. This is also true of any flowers or other decor around the altar or ambo. The functionality of these places is foremost, and the environment around them should support the action of the liturgy, not hamper it.
The candidates (who after their initiation will be called the neophytes) are beginning a new part in their journey as they enter the period called mystagogia. One of the worries is that they will not persevere in their new life. Consider getting the book Deepening the Mystery: A Guided Journal through Mystagogia. See the website for a sale price and special bulk discounts.
Please send me suggestions from your parish practices, and I’ll include them in next month’s Ministry Resource Update.
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Caroline M. Thomas
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