Saturday night is my favorite night of the year, and not just — or even mostly — because it means the end to Lenten discipline. Although that can’t happen too soon.
Saturday night is special because it’s the Paschal Vigil.
You simply haven’t experienced the full celebration of the Resurrection until you’ve participated in the vigil, and first Mass of Easter. It is an awe-inspiring mix of fire and candlelight and glorious music and a scriptural journey from the Flood through the Resurrection, concluding with the Eucharistic feast.
As my parish it explains it, “At sundown, the third day of the Triduum begins with the lighting of the Paschal Fire, the entrance into the church with the fire and the singing of the Exultet. Then follows lessons from scripture that recount the story of salvation history. After a homily and the Renewal of Baptismal Vows there comes the celebration of the First Mass of Easter.”
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I am new to this liturgy, having grown up in a nonliturgical church, but it is among the oldest traditions of the Christian church. Today, it is celebrated by the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches — which is to say, by the overwhelming majority of Christians across the world, but nowhere near the majority of Christians in South Carolina.
You really should make time to attend the Paschal Vigil on Saturday night if you can. Just Google “Easter Vigil” and the name of your city. (And Google “Easter Vigil images” for some breathtaking pictures.)
If you’re in Columbia and you’d like to experience the majesty and reverence of the Roman Catholic or Orthodox church without the intimidation factor, come by my parish. We’ll begin on the front lawn at 8.