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The Great Vigil of Easter is a church treasure, passed down to us from the first generations of Christians. The Vigil is considered the first service of Easter Day, during which the epic story of redemption unfolds in four different services.
THE SERVICE OF LIGHT
The first service is the Service of Light in which the new Paschal candle is lit and carried into the church. This candle represents Christ himself: present at the dawn of creation and victor over death. During the Exsultet, the cantor conveys the meaning of the Vigil in three statements that begin with the phrase “This is the night”. On this night we celebrate passover from death to life, first of the Israelites at the Red Sea, then of us (the followers of Christ) through our baptism, and finally of Jesus himself by his resurrection.
THE SERVICE OF LESSONS
In the Service of Lessons, we look back on the full story of God’s creation of the world and then his unfolding plan to rescue and redeem the fallen world. We see the story of God’s saving deeds in the Old Testament with full knowledge of the resurrection, just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, when Jesus “explained to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” That is why traditionally all of the readings end in hope and the promise of salvation through Jesus. It is also our children’s favorite part of Vigil, as they dress up to dramatically re-enact different characters—or animals—from these beautiful stories.
The Church considers the story of Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea to be the only story that must be read at a Vigil. That is because it encapsulates all that this night is about—crossing from Egypt (that place of slavery to which we even still look back longingly) through baptism (the Red Sea) into the Promised Land (where we are God’s people). Also, from out of the people God delivered that day came our Savior, and their Passover story also becomes our own. What God has created, he is more wonderfully restoring.
THE SERVICE OF BAPTISM
In Baptism, we live out the very realities we have seen in the readings. People in our very midst cross over on this night into the family of God through the waters of baptism, and we all renew our own baptismal covenant to be God’s own.
THE SERVICE OF EUCHARIST
The fourth service, The Service of Eucharist, is where we receive the very body and blood that Jesus offered up for us to be our life and food so that we can go forth and live as his people. It is the table of gathering in the Great Thanksgiving for his death and life that is now also our death to self and life in God. It is a time for great joy and celebration for God’s saving work throughout history and within each of us.
As you enter into Vigil, we invite you to celebrate the miracle that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God is restoring the beauty and goodness of the world he created. We pray that you would hear his voice in the readings and invite him to bring that restoration to you.
The Service of Light
Dramatic & Musical Readings
The Holy Noise
Worship through Dance
Primary Service – Church of the Resurrection | 7pm
Portage Park, Evanston, & Edgewater | TBD