Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday liturgy, and the Easter Vigil form one three-day liturgy, with its public and private moments. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper has an opening song and begins in the normal way, but it does not have a formal ending. People disperse in silence without having been dismissed. The Good Friday liturgy has no formal opening or closing. The Easter Vigil does not have a formal opening, but it ends with a solemn dismissal with the double Alleluia and a rousing Closing Song. In between these public rituals, people are at home or at work, but they hold themselves prayerfully within this long liturgical moment.
The high point of this three-day liturgy is the Easter Vigil at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. People gather around the Easter Fire for the blessing of the Easter Candle, then move into the Utopia Room for the most solemn Liturgy of the Word of the entire year. There are four Old Testament readings and two New Testament readings. Psalms are sung in between. This is the night when we tell our story. These readings, carefully chosen by the Church and proclaimed on this night since the 4th Century, tell the Narrative of Salvation.
The Easter Vigil is also the Liturgy of Initiation. People will be baptized, confirmed, and receive first Eucharist on that night, becoming one with us in Christ and in the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Witnessing these rites and renewing our own baptismal promises after hearing our story does something for us that no other liturgy can.
Easter Vigil happens at an inconvenient time, and it takes about two hours; however, it is well worth your time. Come prepared to pray, sing, and be renewed. And it will satisfy your Easter obligation. You won’t have to come back the next morning and fight the crowds.
~ Fr. Frank Coady