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What Is the Great Vigil of Easter?

by Father Ray

One of the wonderful services of the whole Church Year is the Great Vigil of Easter. In the early Church, followers of Jesus met all night on Easter Eve for a vigil of readings and prayers. At dawn, new converts to the faith were baptized, and the first Eucharist of Easter was celebrated.

Easter Lily with White backgroundOur version of the Great Vigil is a lot shorter but very powerful! The service begins with the church in the darkness of Good Friday. The Easter candle (Paschal candle) is lit, candles are lit for all gathered, and beautiful prayers are sung. There is a series of readings from the scripture which remember the great acts of God through history. Finally, the lights are turned on, and the first Eucharist of Easter begins! If there are people to be baptized, the baptisms take place at the beginning of the Eucharist.

At St. George’s, we have had the practice the past few years of joining with other congregations for the Great Vigil. We have done this recently with Redeemer Lutheran Church and with other area Episcopal congregations. We rotate the site of the Vigil in the various churches.

This year, the Great Vigil will be at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 4641 Marconi Avenue, Sacramento on Saturday April 15 at 7 p.m.

If you have not experienced the Great Vigil service, I encourage you to attend this year. It is an amazing liturgy! I hope that many from St. George’s will join in the service this year.


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