Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter vigil Easter Morning

I originally wrote this over at Thought Criminal.  It's pretty much a bit of vainglorious navel gazing, but I decided to post it here anyway.  I was prompted by his remarks on the Easter liturgy, so you might want to there first.

I used to use a form of the Easter Vigil liturgy (probably similar to the modern Catholic liturgy; my version came from the UCC Book of Worship) on Easter Sunday.  The church was dark and silent, no paraments and I wore no stole; no candles, no lilies (which always upset people at first).  I brought in a tall candle, the "Christ Candle" (a novelty to a Protestant church) and read the liturgy of light.  The first 10-15 minutes were in a space lit only by the windows, and no sounds except spoken words.  When it came time to declare Christ risen, the organ would thunder an Easter hymn as the lights came up, the white paraments came out, the lilies appeared, and spirits (I always hoped), rose.

There were, as you say, several more readings from the Hebrew scriptures, recalling the salvation stories throughout history, leading to the gospel story of Easter morning.  There was a service of water (renewal of baptismal vows by all present), a service of word (preaching), a service of the eucharist.

It was my longest service of the year, and my favorite.  Nobody complained about the length (whereas if I ran 4 minutes over any other Sunday, I heard about it for weeks), or about the absence of flowers when they came in.

I have to admit I miss it terribly, if only because of the spiritual renewal it never failed to give me.  I hate to be the center of attention, I don't like to stand up in public, but I miss leading worship.  It was, for me, a very vivid and incarnated form of prayer.

Walter Brueggeman teaches that liturgy is a form of remembrance.  It is that.  And remembrance is a form of spirituality, of placing yourself consciously in the presence of God.  Worshipping God truly is a communal matter, and it truly isn't a matter of bending the knee before a master, wishing for beneficence from on high.  It is so much richer and more purposeful than that, and truly has so little to do with you, and so much to with the cloud of witness of which you may, for a moment, become a part.

A blessed Easter to you all, whatever your beliefs.  As the E&R eucharist said:  "May it be unto your according to your faith."


  1. I'd love to have been there. That liturgy is also a work of art can enhance its meaning as certainly as setting a text in music can. The major problem isn't so much as getting a balance between art and meaning right but finding how to use the art to put forth the meaning.

    Joyous Easter, RMJ and readers.

  2. A Blessed and Happy Easter, Rmj and TTC.

    The service you describe sounds similar to our Easter Vigil service last evening, which is from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. First we light a fire outside the church, light the large Paschal candle from the fire, and light smaller candles for the congregation to process into the darkened church. Then we listen to several lessons from the Hebrew Testament, after which the lights come on and the Eucharistic service proceeds. Our celebration was joyful and lovely.

    At one time the fire was lit in the church until the flowing sleeve of a clergyman who was lighting the Paschal candle caught on fire. Thank goodness, he was not harmed, but it was believed safer to have the fire outside.

  3. June--it's very much the same. The only thing I did was move it from a vigil service, to Easter morning. I wanted to specifically connect Good Friday to Easter Sunday, and I wanted as much pageantry as we could muster.

    Easter, far more than Christmas, lends itself to that. Besides, when I found the Vigil service, with its emphasis on salvation history through the Hebrew scriptures and gospels and epistles, I couldn't resist it.

    A blessed Easter to you.

  4. No, no, no, no, no, NO! God intended the Vigil to be on Saturday night!!! I am unanimous about this!!!

    [JCF, Night Owl, not Morning Person. I once went to one of those sunrise GVE's---aw, I was chasing a girl therein, dontcha know ;-) ---and it damn near killed me.]

    Thank God our new rector moved the GVE back to Saturday night (though, truth be told, I actually wish it started later---than 7PM, so it was DARK---and went longer).

    Happy Easter to all @ Adventus: He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!