The Easter Vigil is an ancient Christian tradition celebrated on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. The service begins in darkness and then includes the reading of Old Testament stories of God’s salvation.
The gold boxes denote the lessons that will be read this year.
There are twelve Old Testament readings that have been selected especially for our Light and Lessons service. These readings are known as the “Salvation History.” Our service this year includes six of these readings.
Starting in the 1980’s when Resurrection was led by Canon William Beasley, there was a desire to make Holy Week not a series of rituals but a profound time of meeting the Lord. Thanks to his background in theater, Fr. William understood the ability of the arts to make abstract concepts concrete and accessible, and he charismatically drew artists to Resurrection. When he brought actors, visual artists, and musicians into the same room and gave them freedom to interpret the Salvation History readings, an explosion of creativity flowed forth. This continues to be true at Resurrection to this day, as artists are asked to be preachers by using their gifts to proclaim the heart of the Gospel.
Consider reading the Vigil passages ahead of time with your children in an easy-to-understand translation (such as the New Living Translation). Encourage them to act out a scene or perhaps create artwork inspired by the passage.
Coloring pages of the vigil stories
Original painting by Resurrection artist Janice Skivington Wood of the angel appearing to the women at the empty tomb.
(Image copyright: Church of the Resurrection)
View our traditional Vigil service from our Explainer videos for Holy Week 2018.
The Great Vigil of Easter is the crowning jewel of Holy Week; it traditionally begins after sunset on Holy Saturday and extends through the night, culminating in a sunrise service. Of all the services celebrated during Holy Week, the Easter Vigil is the oldest known service of the week. The earliest references to the Vigil are found in the second century AD. In the third and fourth centuries, Christians believed this was the most significant holy day for new Christians to declare their faith and become full members of the family of God.The Easter Vigil celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and looks forward to his coming again in glory to fully reconcile the world to himself.
The Service of Light is highlighted by the singing of the Exsultet, an ancient chant which describes the significance of the night and the journey on which we will embark together. It is at this time that the Paschal Candle is lit from a new fire outside of the church. Clergy members then process into the sanctuary with the light. As they reach the doors of the sanctuary, they stop and knock prior to entering. As the Paschal Candle enters the room, it is the only light, representing our passage from the darkness of death on Good Friday into the light of life on Easter Sunday. The Paschal Candle will burn during every service through Easter until Pentecost.
In the “Lessons” portion of this service, we dramatically reinterpret the traditional readings of our Great Vigil of Easter through visual art, theater, dance, and song. The artists of Resurrection have historically prepared for months in advance, writing original songs, crafting new art, and theatrically interpreting these scripture stories to tell the story of salvation to the church and those who may never have heard of God’s saving deeds for all people.
Because Resurrection was a mobile church from 1990-2012, each move into a new worship space pushed us to a new level of creativity. The move into Glenbard West High School gave us the space for our theatrical and artistic vision to come to full fruition. As the Vigil service grew, we moved into Edman Chapel at Wheaton College, and our artists were challenged to fill a larger space than ever before. Now that we are finally celebrating in our own home, a new level of joy has been unleashed as we adapt to the space that we built specifically to host our Easter services. Through each of these moves, however, Easter has continued to be marked by a bold, creative spirit that is inspired by scripture, liturgy, and the Holy Spirit.