Praying with the Easter Vigil at Home
The Easter Vigil, celebrated at night on Holy Saturday, is one of the most powerful liturgies of the year. Unfortunately, this year, because of the pandemic, we will not be able to celebrate it, in person. We offer a review of the whole liturgy - Preparing for the Easter Vigil - which explains the whole liturgy and offers links to all of the reading options, and the prayers which complete each reading. We offer the text of the Easter Proclamation, the Blessing of the Water and the Renewal of our Baptismal promises on that page.
Hopefully, we will be able to join the Vigil celebration virtually, on TV or from the Vatican site, or our parish web online. Here are a few suggestions for our prayer to help us enter into that celebration more deeply.
The first suggestion is that we try to enter into the darkness with which the Vigil begins. This may be as simple as turning out the lights in our home and sitting before the TV or internet connection, in the dark. Perhaps we can have ready a candle or vigil light, which we can light at the appropriate time. (Perhaps, if the baptismal candles of the children in our home have been saved, they could be brought out for this special occasion.) Sitting in the darkness, as we prepare for the liturgy to begin, we could enter into the experience of darkness. It connects us to any darkness we may be experiencing. Fear and anxiety are so often are related to darkness - to not being able to see, or to know what is ahead of us. That is so very important to get in touch with during this time of crisis in our world, as we begin this powerful liturgy. If we can afford some time to reflect on darkness we are experiencing (whether we are alone, or with family), it will help us prepare for what comes next.
The second suggestion for preparation is to carefully and reverently read the text of the Easter Proclamation. This song of exultant praise for Christ our Light celebrates the mystery of this Light in our darkness, previewing the story of our salvation, which we will read in the readings. It will be a great luxury to read this powerful prayer (individually, or together as a family), perhaps reflecting on the wonder of each stanza. It will wonderfully prepare us to hear it proclaimed in the Vigil liturgy.
The third preparation for the upcoming celebration is to reflect upon our Baptismal promises, which we will renew at this liturgy. Unfortunately, our liturgies will not be able to celebrate the Baptism and full incorporation of our RCIA catechumens and candidates. But we will be able to renews our promises. To the degree we can more consciously enter into what this renewal means, to that degree we can be renewed this night in a very special way. We are remembering that, in our Baptism, for those of us baptized as children, our parents and godparents made promises for us - promising to reject Satan and all his ways. And, they professed faith in the whole mystery of our faith which we will celebrate this night. At this time of great need, for all of us. it will be wonderful to renew these promises and this profession of faith, quite intentionally and devoutly. This is a help in reflection on Renewing our Baptismal Promises.
As the liturgy begins a fire is struck in the darkness. It is especially bright. That fire is used to light the Paschal Candle, which represents Jesus, our Light, in the midst of all darkness. This would be a wonderful time to light a candle in our home. Or, for each of us to hold a candle. Normally, it is at this time that the whole congregation holds a candle and the church is filled with the light which is spread, as the presider sings three times, "Christ, our Light!" In response, we sing, "Thanks be to God!" This will be so wonderful there in the darkness of our homes, with a candle or several candles lit. Then comes the proclamation. Having reflected upon the power of each phrase of that song will enrich the experience of its joy and celebration.
There are nine readings and Collect Prayers given to us for the remembrance of the story of our salvation. Usually only three are required from the Hebrew scriptures, including the story of the Exodus. After the Hebrew scriptures, all the lights come on, the bells are rung, and the Gloria is sung for the first time since Lent began. Then we listen to Paul, writing to the church in Rome, reminding us that we have been baptized into Jesus - that we were baptized into his death, so that we could be reborn with him for eternal life. The gospel this year is Matthew's account of the angel telling Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who accompanied her to the tomb that Jesus was not there. The tomb is empty. "He has been raised from the dead!" They are told to go and tell his disciples the good news. We can let our hearts be filled with joy at this time, as we prepare to listen as the priest or deacon breaks open the Word.
At this point, instead of the Liturgy of Baptism and Confirmation, we will probably all renew our Baptismal Promises. If we have had the opportunity to reflect on those promises, we can respond to each part with a well prepared, "I do!" (We can cue any children in the family to be ready to join in with their renewal as well.)
As we continue with the Eucharist, it can help us to feel ourselves joining into the Eucharistic Prayer as the Easter people we are. I can say, "It is RIGHT to give him thanks and praise!" as a person who has been renewed in a sense of the power of celebrating Jesus as being Light in our darkness, and the one who is risen from the dead, for me, so that I could be baptized into him and live forever in him.
We can't receive the Eucharist at this time, but we can let ourselves be still and feel the communion him that Jesus offers us. We could say, "Lord, let me receive you into my heart. Lord, let this celebration of your Resurrection fill me with new life. Lord, let me be the one you call to share the good news with my sisters and brothers."
May our Lord who offers us the graces of this Easter Vigil celebration in a very special way this year, allow our celebrations at home to be full of grace and especially the graces each of us need to be renewed in the gift of the Resurrection.
Thanks be to God! Alleluia, Alleluia!
There are many joyful Easter hymns which might be appropriate to enjoy and sing.
Praised by Jesus, Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior! To him be Glory forever and ever!
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