The Easter Vigil

On this night, when the church gathers in the darkness of the uncreated world, our first act is to light the bonfire of creation from which is lighted the candle of resurrection, the paschal candle. As this feeble light grows stronger and is passed among the community, we hear the cantor sing the proclamation with its roots in the 7th century, “This is the night…which restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn…” 

The Great Vigil begins with the community treading together through the story of our history with God. We tell one another the bible stories of the reality that creates and recreates us in every age and at every moment – which gives form to the shapeless chaos of our lives and breathes the Spirit of Life over every desert of dry bones. In the midst of all these stories, Jesus’ resurrection breaks through time and space, bringing shape to our own destiny and the glorious fulfillment of creation’s story. 

Tonight is the night of Baptism, when new sisters and brothers are given birth in the body of Christ. When we are reminded that each of us, in rehearsing our own baptismal vows, have bound our frailty with the frailty of Christ in the sure and certain hope that in giving up our lives we will know continually the explosion of new life. We are reminded when splashed with waters of baptism of the continual power of healing that pours itself into creation, drawing together fragments of our broken world. We are reminded of our commandment to be “feet washing” people, showing our deepest love for one another and for all whose suffering begs for salvation.

Finally, when we are worn out and exhausted by the ambiguity and tension of living in the world, Jesus’ friends come right to the mouth of the grave and share wide eyed the first news of resurrection: “Christ is risen!”

Can it be true? Can life really explode from the grave? The word spreads and gets louder, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” In the midst of the intangible clouds of incense, we hear and celebrate with unabashed delight the unbelievable gospel of the resurrection. Gone is the embarrassment we felt as we waited to have our feet washed two nights ago. Gone is the sharp point of suffering which which tries to extinguish all hope. Death is swallowed up in the victory of Love. This is the night we celebrate Christ’s everburning, life-giving, redemptive light given to all creation.

Holy Week at St. Andrew's
Maundy Thursday
Good Friday 

The Rev. Abbott Bailey, rector, St. Andrew’s Church. Sections of this reflection include amended excerpts from “Contemplations on the Liturgical Experience of Holy Week” by the Reverend Dr. Lindon Eaves (1993) and Steven Van Voorhees (2002).