These days, Easter Vigils are super cool and popular. A lot of churches that hold them end up drawing visitors from other Christian denominations who don’t practice this piece of liturgical tradition. And hey, who can blame anyone, nowhere else can one find such a broad sweep of Scripture readings proclaiming so much of the Gospel history in the Bible in just one worship service. Add in the fire and the candles and the dark-and-light drama and the baptisms and the sudden burst of joyful Alleluias, and you’ve got a memorable liturgical experience almost without trying.
I think it’s safe to say that the great majority of Anglicans in this country are happy to have the Easter Vigil authorized and (to some extent) directed in modern Prayer Books.
HOWEVER, this wonderful recuperation of pre-reformation tradition has come with a price: Holy Saturday. Known as “Easter Even” in the classical prayer books, this was – and technically still is – the official liturgy of Holy Saturday. In anticipation of the Great Vigil of Easter, many people forget about Holy Saturday, to the point where more and more churches are labeling The Triduum as Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. This is incorrect! The Triduum, as we saw in fair detail a couple days ago here, ends with the Holy Saturday liturgy. The Vigil is not part of the Triduum. It’s not even part of Holy Week or Lent, it’s the beginning of Easter.
If you’re excited about attending an Easter Vigil tonight, please do what you can to attend, or pray on your own, the Holy Saturday liturgy first. You can do it in like five minutes. Actually, here, I’ll copy the liturgy right here so you can pray it right now!
H O L Y S A T U R D A Y
There is no celebration of the Eucharist on this day.
The Officiant says: Let us pray.
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God of the living, on this day your Son our Savior descended to the place of the dead: Look with kindness on all of us who wait in hope for liberation from the corruption of sin and death, and give us a share in the glory of the children of God; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
T H E L E S S O N S
1 PETER 4:1-8
After the Gospel, a homily may follow.
My homily is this: Note that the traditional Collect & Lessons are slightly different from the modern. The main emphasis difference between traditional and modern Holy Saturday is the baptismal material, which we now have emphasized in the Easter Vigil instead.
The following is then sung or said.
T H E A N T H E M
Man born of woman has but a short time to live, and is full of misery.
He springs up, and is cut down like a flower; he flees like a shadow,
and never continues the same.
In the midst of life we are in death: of whom do we seek strength, but you, O Lord,
who for our sins are justly displeased?
Yet, O Lord God most holy,
O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the pains of eternal death.
You know, O Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not your ears to our prayer;
but spare us, Lord most holy,
O God most mighty,
O holy and merciful Savior,
most worthy Judge eternal,
do not let us, in this our final hour,
through the pain of death, fall away from you.
The Officiant and People together pray the Lord’s Prayer. The concluding doxology is customarily omitted.
The Officiant concludes: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.
3 thoughts on “Before the Vigil”
My church makes an amazing production of the Vigil. We dramatize the readings, complete with music and costumes and even dance. Some of the readings from past years are available to watch on Vimeo. This is the (cathedral) Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois.
I have actually visited your church before! Though not for the Easter vigil of course; that sounds like quite the production. What will you all be doing for Holy Saturday before the vigil today?
Fr. Stephen has typically done the service for Holy Saturday in the chapel. I don’t think it’s very well attended. In the middle of prep for everything else, I’ve never been. Also, I didn’t realize it would be easy enough to do it at home. It’s also a Rez thing for the Good Friday service to be quite pastoral and I don’t even know when the last people leave, and I’ve stayed until 10:30. And nowadays we also do a repeat of the Vigil readings in an overnight service. It’s all really great, but you can see how this would get lost. But being a convert to the Anglican Way, I’m glad to learn about this part of the Triduum. You’ve given me food for thought — thank you!
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