Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil, also called the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, it is during this service that people are baptized and that adult catechumens are received into full communion with the Church. It is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day – most commonly in the evening of Holy Saturday or midnight – and is the first celebration of Easter, days traditionally being considered to begin at sunset.

Among liturgical western churches including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches, the Easter Vigil is the most important service of public worship and Masses of the liturgical year, marked by the first use since the beginning of Lent of the exclamatory "Alleluia", a distinctive feature of the Easter season.

In Eastern Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, and other traditions of Eastern Christianity, the extremely festive ceremonies and Divine Liturgy which are celebrated during the Easter Vigil are unique to that night and are the most elaborate and important of the liturgical year.

Photo of the Easter Vigil at Cistercian Abbey Heiligenkreuz, near Vienna, 2008.

Earliest known form of the Easter Vigil

The original twelve Old Testament readings for the Easter Vigil survive in an ancient manuscript belonging to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Armenian Easter Vigil also preserves what is believed to be the original length of the traditional gospel reading of the Easter Vigil, i.e., from the Last Supper account to the end of the Gospel according to Matthew.

In the earliest Jerusalem usage the vigil began with Psalm 117 [118] sung with the response, "This is the day which the Lord has made." Then followed twelve Old Testament readings, all but the last being followed by a prayer with kneeling.

(1) Genesis 1:1--3:24 (the story of creation); (2) Genesis 22:1-18 (the binding of Isaac); (3) Exodus 12:1-24 (the Passover charter narrative); (4) Jonah 1:1--4:11 (the story of Jonah); (5) Exodus 14:24--15:21 (crossing of the Red Sea); (6) Isaiah 60:1-13 (the promise to Jerusalem); (7) Job 38:2-28 (the Lord's answer to Job); (8) 2 Kings 2:1-22 (the assumption of Elijah); (9) Jeremiah 31:31-34 (the New Covenant); (10) Joshua 1:1-9 (entry into the Promised Land); (11) Ezekiel 37:1-14 (the valley of dry bones); (12) Daniel 3:1-29 (the story of the three youths).

The twelfth reading leads into the Song of the Three Children and is not followed by a prayer with kneeling, but is immediately followed by the prokeimenon of the Eucharistic liturgy. Thomas Talley stresses the importance of this series of reading as representing the oldest known series and the one evidently having the very greatest influence on the development of all subsequent series of readings.[1]

According to Byzantine historian Andrew Ekonomou, the Easter Vespers was unknown in Rome prior to its introduction in the mid-7th century, and solemnization by Pope Vitalian during the period when Rome was part of the Byzantine Empire. The Paschal vespers was long celebrated in Constantinople prior to this and the service itself has details that appear eastern in origin. [2]

Western churches

Catholic Church

Bendición del fuego nuevo
Lighting of a paschal candle in Mexico City.

The Roman Missal states: "Of this night’s Vigil, which is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities, there is to be only one celebration in each church. It is arranged, moreover, in such a way that after the Lucernarium and the "Exsultet", The Easter Proclamation (which constitutes the first part of this Vigil), Holy Church meditates on the wonders the Lord God has done for his people from the beginning, trusting in his word and promise (the second part, that is, the Liturgy of the Word) until, as day approaches, with new members reborn in Baptism (the third part), the Church is called to the table the Lord has prepared for his people, the memorial of his Death and Resurrection until he comes again (the fourth part)."[3]

In the Roman Rite liturgy, the Easter Vigil consists of four parts:

  1. The Service of Light
  2. The Liturgy of the Word
  3. Christian Initiation and the Renewal of Baptismal Vows
  4. Eucharist

The vigil begins between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday outside the church, where an Easter fire is kindled and the Paschal candle is blessed and then lit. This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, remaining in the sanctuary of the church or near the lectern, and throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, reminding all that Christ is "light and life".

Once the candle has been lit, it is carried by a deacon through the nave of the church, itself in complete darkness, stopping three times to chant the acclamation 'Light of Christ' (Lumen Christi), to which the assembly responds 'Thanks be to God' or 'Deo Gratias'. As the candle proceeds through the church, the small candles held by those present are gradually lit from the Paschal candle. As this symbolic "Light of Christ" spreads, darkness is decreased.

The deacon, priest, or a cantor now chants the Exsultet (also called the "Easter Proclamation" or "Paschal Praeconium"), after which the people sit for the Liturgy of the Word.

Once the paschal candle has been placed on its stand in the sanctuary, the lights in the church are switched on and the congregation extinguish their candles (although in some churches, the custom is to continue the liturgy by candlelight or without any lights until the Gloria).

The Liturgy of the Word consists of seven readings from the Old Testament (i.e., 1. Genesis 1:1-2:2; 2. Genesis 22:1-18; 3. Exodus 14:15-15:1; 4. Isaiah 54:4a.5-14; 5. Isaiah 55:1-11; 6. Baruch 3:9-15.32-4:4; 7. Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28),[4] although it is permitted to reduce this number for pastoral reasons to at least three, or for very pressing pastoral reasons two. The account of the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea may never be omitted, since this event is at the centre of the Jewish Passover, of which Christians believe Christ's death and resurrection is the fulfillment. Each reading is followed by a psalm or biblical canticle (i.e., Psalm 10, Exodus 15:1-18, Psalm 30, Isaiah 12:2-6, Psalm 19, Psalm 42 & 43) sung responsorially and by a prayer that relates what has been read in the Old Testament to the mystery of Christ. After these readings conclude, the altar candles are lit and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is sung for the first time since before Lent (with the exception of Holy Thursday, as well as any solemnities or feasts that occurred during Lent), and the church bells and the organ, silent since that point on Holy Thursday, are sounded again - although it is customary in some churches to have no organ playing during Lent at all, except when accompanying hymns. (In the pre-Vatican II rite, the statues, which have been covered during Passiontide, are unveiled at this time.) The collect is sung or recited. The reading from the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 6:3-11) is proclaimed, followed by the chanting of Psalm 118. The Alleluia is sung for the first time since before Lent and with special solemnity. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8 or Luke 24:1-12 follows, along with a homily.

After the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, the water of the baptismal font is solemnly blessed, and any catechumens and candidates for full communion are initiated into the church by baptism or confirmation. After the celebration of these sacraments of initiation, the congregation renews their baptismal vows and receive the sprinkling of baptismal water. The prayer of the faithful (of whom the newly baptised are now part) follow.

After the prayers, the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues as usual. This is the first Mass of Easter Day. During the Eucharist, the newly baptized receive Holy Communion for the first time. According to the rubrics of the Missal, the Eucharist should finish before dawn.

The 20th century saw two major revisions of the Roman-Rite Easter Vigil liturgy. The first occurred in the 1950s under Pope Pius XII. Previously, the Vigil service was held on Holy Saturday morning. Outside the church the Easter fire was lit and blessed, and five grains of incense were also blessed. All lamps and candles within the church were quenched, so as to be relit later with the new fire. (The rubrics did not envisage electricity or gas lighting.) At the church entrance, in the centre of the church, and then at the altar, each of the candles on a triple candlestick was in turn lit from a candle that had been lit from the new fire, and on each occasion this was followed by a genuflection and the chanting of "Lumen Christi". During the singing of the Exsultet, which then followed, the five grains of incense were placed in the paschal candle and the paschal candle was lit from one of the candles on the triple candlestick. The Liturgy of the word consisted of twelve readings, for the most part without responsory chants: the seven mentioned above except the fourth and seventh, plus the account of the Flood (Gen 5-8) as the second; followed by a different one from Ezekiel (37:1-14), plus Isaiah 4:1-6, Exodus 12:1-11 (the introduction of the Paschal rites, also read then on Good Friday but now on Holy Thursday), Jonah 3:1-10, Deuteronomy 31:22-30, Daniel 3:1-24. The prayers after the readings were preceded by Flectamus genua and a genuflection, except for the last. After the Old Testament readings the baptismal font was blessed, and the conferral of baptism was envisaged, though rarely performed. The Litany of the Saints followed. Violet vestments were worn except for the deacon (or the priest performing the deacon's functions) who wore a white dalmatic in the procession and at the Exsultet. The priest, unless acting as deacon, wore a violet cope. After this, white Mass vestments were put on, and Mass followed. The Mass was in the then normal form (including the prayers at the foot of the altar), but without Introit, Agnus Dei, Postcommunion and Last Gospel. Its Epistle was Colossians 3:1-4, and the Gospel Matthew 28:1-7. Mass was followed immediately by abbreviated Vespers.

Pope Pius XII changed the hour of the celebration to after sunset. He separated the blessing and lighting of the Candle from the Exsultet to the beginning, the present position. The triple candlestick was no longer used. It was from the Paschal candle that, at the chanting of "Lumen Christi" (without genuflection) the priest would light his own candle at the Paschal candle; for the second, the rest of the clergy plus altar servers would, and for the third, the entire congregation. The Exsultet's function was turned (without change in the text) into a jubilant praise of the Paschal candle already blessed and lit. Of the Old Testament readings, only four were kept: what had been the first (story of Creation - now still the first), the fourth (Red Sea - now the third), the eighth (second from Isaiah) and the eleventh (Deuteronomy). Then followed the first part of the Litany of the Saints (only the names of the saints), the blessing of the font, possible baptisms, renewal of baptismal promises (a novelty with respect to the past and the first inclusion of the vernacular language in the general Roman liturgy), and the second part of the litany. After this came Mass (without prayers at the foot of the altar), followed by Easter lauds (no longer Holy Saturday Vespers). In virtue of the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, this form may, under certain conditions, still be used because of its inclusion in the 1962 Roman Missal of Pope John XXIII.


Although the Easter Vigil is not universal in the Anglican Communion, its use has become far more common in recent decades. Formerly it was only common in parishes in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, having been abandoned at the Reformation and recovered by the 19th-century Tractarian movement.

The service, as provided for example in the current version of the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (TEC), the Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Times and Seasons volume of the Church of England's Common Worship, follows more or less the same form as the Roman Catholic service described above, with some variations in texts and ritual.[5] The four-part structure of the Vigil is retained, though in the TEC rite the service of baptism may follow immediately after the readings from the Old Testament.

The service normally consists of four parts:

  1. The Service of Light.
  2. The Service of Lessons.
  3. Christian Initiation, or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows.
  4. The Holy Eucharist with the administration of Easter Communion.

Some of the other particular differences from the Roman Catholic observance include:

  1. If the service of baptism takes place after the Old Testament readings, the Gloria is sung after the Baptism or Renewal of Baptismal Vows. The Te Deum Laudamus or the Pascha Nostrum may be used in place of the Gloria.
  2. The number and particular passages in the Service of Lessons differs. There are up to nine (as opposed to seven) readings from the Hebrew Bible.

Confirmations occur only when the bishop is present, because, in the Anglican tradition, only a bishop may administer confirmation.


Lutheran deacon with Easter candle
Gemeinde osternacht
Congregation with small Easter candles

The Easter Vigil, like the Christmas Vigil, remained a popular festive worship service in the Lutheran churches during and after the Reformation. It was often celebrated in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday. As in all Lutheran services of this period, vernacular language was used in combination with traditional liturgical texts in Latin (such as the Exsultet). Elements which were considered unbiblical and superstitious were eliminated, such as the blessing of the new fire, the consecration of the candles or of water. Emphasis was placed on the scriptural readings, congregational singing and on the Easter sermon. In Wittenberg the Easter Gospel (Matthew 28. 1 - 10; 16 - 20) was sung in the German language in a tone similar to the tone of the Exsultet - a gospel tone only used for this worship service. The devastation caused by the Thirty Years' War also led to a decline in worship culture in the Lutheran Churches in Germany. The rationalism of the 18th century also brought about a change in worship habits and customs. The liturgical movement that arose in the German Lutheran Churches after World War I rediscovered the Easter Vigil in its reformational form. In an article from 1934 for the Liturgical Conference of Lower Saxony and for the Berneuchen Movement Wilhelm Stählin appealed to fellow Lutherans for an Easter service on early Easter Sunday or on Holy Saturday night using elements from the Missal, the Orthodox tradition and from reformational service orders. An order for the Easter Vigil was published in 1936, and several Lutheran congregations in Hannover observed the Easter Vigil in 1937. Since then the Easter Vigil has experienced a revival in many parishes throughout Germany. This movement within the German Lutheran Churches contributed to a revival and revision of the Roman Catholic order for the Easter Vigil by Pope Pius XII in 1951. The "Agende II" for the Evangelical Lutheran Churches and Parishes in Germany from 1960 gave the "Osternacht" (German for "Easter Vigil") a normative form. The most recent agenda for the Easter Vigil was published by the "Vereinigte Evangelisch-lutherische Kirche" in 2008.[6] The order for the Easter Vigil is comparable to the order of service used by American Lutherans. It is characterized, however, by a number of Gregorian chants, medieval and reformational hymns which have been in use in German worship services for centuries.

In North America the Lutherans, similarly to the Anglicans, have in many places returned to the observance of the Easter Vigil [including the restoration of the blessing of the new fire]. The recent service books of both the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America assume the service as normative.

In the Lutheran Service Book, the Altar Book, the Vigil comprises the Service of Light with the Exsultet; the Service or Readings with up to 12 readings; the Service of Holy Baptism at which candidates may be baptized, the baptized confirmed, and the congregation remember its Baptism into Jesus; the Service of Prayer, featuring an Easter litany; and concluding with the Service of the Sacrament, at which the Holy Eucharist is celebrated.


In Methodism, the Easter Vigil is the first service of Eastertide.[7] The liturgy contained in The United Methodist Book of Worship divides the Easter Vigil into four parts:[7]

  1. The Service of Light[7]
  2. The Service of the Word[7]
  3. The Service of the Baptismal Covenant[7]
  4. The Service of the Table[7]

The Service of Light begins in silence outside of the church building in the nighttime and there, a new fire is kindled and each member of the congregation is given a candle; a greeting, opening prayer and lighting of the Paschal Candle from the new fire then solemnly occurs.[7] The clergy and congregation receive the new light from the Paschal candle and then take part in a procession into the church, as a hymn is sung.[7] The Easter Proclamation is then chanted by a deacon (if there is no deacon, a concelebraing minister does the task and if there is no concelebrating minister, it is entrusted to a lay cantor).[7] The Service of the Word contains readings explicating the following topics: "The Creation", "The Covenant between God and the Earth", "Abraham's Trust in God", "Israel's Deliverance at the Red Sea", "Salvation Offered Freely to All", "A New Heart and a New Spirit", "New Life for God's People", and "Buried and Raised with Christ in Baptism".[7] After each reading, a canticle is sung and then a prayer is offered. Following the hearing of the "record of God's saving deeds in history", the Gospel lesson is proclaimed by the minister and then he/she gives the sermon.[7] The Service of the Baptismal Covenant follows with the baptism of catechumens and then their confirmation, as well as that of those who are being received into the United Methodist Church.[7] The Service of the Table includes the celebration of Holy Communion, which is concluded by a benediction and recessional hymn.[7]

Byzantine Christianity: Eastern Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism

Chora Anastasis1
A 14th-century fresco of the Anastasis, Chora Museum, Istanbul.
Receiving the Holy Light at Easter
The congregation lighting their candles from the new flame which the priest has retrieved from the altar (St. George Greek Orthodox Church, in Adelaide, Australia).
At paschal matins, a bishop holds the pascal trikiron and deacons (facing the bishop) hold paschal candles (Holy Cross Monastery in Wayne, West Virginia.)
A deacon holds a red paschal deacon's candle at paschal matins (The Trinity Lavra, in Sergiyev Posad, Russia).
Blessing Easter baskets in Lviv.

In popular culture and for most believers, the Paschal vigil is the service that commences at midnight; however, the vigil proper commences with vespers Saturday afternoon.

Saturday Midday

Commencing two hours before sundown according to the written rubrics,[8] although generally in the late morning in actual practice,[9] is great vespers with the Divine Liturgy. It is during this service that catechumens are baptized and that fact, together with the lengthy Old Testament readings, shows that this service is analogous to the Easter vigil described in the previous sections,[10] seemingly representing development from a common tradition.

In the Byzantine tradition these Old Testament readings are:

1. Genesis 1:1-13; 2. Isaiah 60:1-16; 3. Exodus 12:1-11; 4. Jonah 1:1-4:11; 5. Joshua 5:10-15; 6. Exodus 13:20-15:19; 7. Zephaniah 3:8-15; 8. 3 Kings 17:8-24; 9. Isaiah 61:10-62:5; 10. Genesis 22:1-18; 11. Isaiah 61:1-9; 12. 4 Kings 4:8-37; 13. Isaiah 63:11-64:5; 14. Jeremiah 31:31-34; 15. Daniel 3:1-68.

It is during these readings that catechumens may be baptized and chrismated, the order of which is given in the Book of Needs (Ευχολόγιον; Требникъ) and is performed while most of the faithful and clergy remain in the church for the readings, the newly baptised being led back into the church during the singing of "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (sung in place of the Trisagion).[11]

This service recounts the Harrowing of Hell, at which time, according to Orthodox theology, the righteous dead were raised from Hades and entered into Paradise. This Good News of Christ's triumph over death, the Church teaches, was at that time revealed only to the departed. The revelation to the living occurred when his tomb was found empty "very early in the morning, on the first day of the week" (Mark 16:2) and this vigil recounts that discovery of the empty tomb. Also commemorated is the Passover of the Law, which according to the Gospel of John, was on the Sabbath when Christ lay in the tomb, and among the Old Testament readings is the story of the Exodus out of Egypt, that reading ending with the antiphonal singing of the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-19).

Although this vespers service begins Sunday in the usual manner, including the resurrectional stichera of the first tone, the feast of Pascha begins in the middle of the night, at the time Christ rose from the dead, while the text of and rubrics for Saturday's liturgy are found in the Triodion, the lenten service book.

Before the Gospel reading, in place of the "Alleluia" sung at every other Liturgy of the year, is a prokeimenon during which, in the Russian tradition, all vestments and decorations of the church are quickly and dramatically changed from black to white.[12] Another feature unique to this Liturgy is that the usual Cherubic Hymn is replaced by that from the Liturgy of St. James, "Let all mortal flesh keep silence".

In Jerusalem, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch receives the Holy Fire and subsequently celebrates the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Sepulchre (i.e., empty tomb) of Christ on the very place where his body lay at the time of his Resurrection.

At the closing of this vespers/liturgy is a modified artoklasia at which bread, wine, and dates or figs are blessed and partaken of by the faithful as sustenance for the remainder of the fast.[13] Thereafter is prescribed the reading of the Acts of the Apostles, which Saint John Chrysostom stated was the best proof of the Resurrection, and which is prescribed as the reading between vespers and matins at Sunday vigils for all of the fifty days of Pentecost.[14] In ancient times, the faithful would remain in the church throughout the night and thus the Paschal Vigil would have actually begun on the afternoon of Saturday and not ended until towards dawn on Sunday morning. In contemporary practice, however, there is typically a gap of some hours before this reading commences.

Saturday Midnight

The order of the Paschal Vigil is as follows (with some minor local variations):

  1. After the reading of the Acts of the Apostles the Midnight Office is served "at the fourth hour of the night",[15] generally, in practice, timed to end shortly before midnight,[16] during which is sung again the Canon of Holy Saturday and are read commentaries of Saints Epiphanius of Cyprus and John Chrysostom.[17]
    1. The epitaphios (shroud) depicting the dead body of Christ is solemnly venerated for a last time and then ceremoniously taken into the altar and laid on the Holy Table towards the end of the canon.
    2. After the dismissal of the midnight office all the lights in the church are extinguished except for the unsleeping flame on the Holy Table (altar), and all wait in silence and darkness. Where possible, the Holy Light arrives from the Holy Sepulchre during Holy Saturday afternoon and it is used to light anew the unsleeping flame.
  2. At the "time for matins",[18] usually in practice at the stroke of midnight,[19] the priest censes around the Holy Table, and lights his candle from the unsleeping flame. The Holy Doors are opened, after which the priest exclaims "Come receive the light from the light that is never overtaken by night, and glorify Christ, Who is risen from the dead!" or a similar variation depending on tradition. After this proclamation, the priest approaches the congregation with the Paschal trikirion (lit from the unsleeping flame), and the people light their candles from the flame.
  3. Two vessels of incense, one in the altar, the other in the middle of the church, are lit. The priest takes the blessing cross and the deacon a candle, and other priests take the Gospel Book and icon of the Resurrection, and process westward, opening the doors of the nave and the exterior doors and together with the people exit the church and go in procession three times around it while singing the hymn of the resurrection: "Thy resurrection, O Christ our Saviour, the angels sing in the heavens, and us on earth make worthy to glorify Thee with pure hearts" during which the church bells ring incessantly. This procession recounts the journey of the Myrrhbearers to the Tomb of Christ. During and after the procession, the priest carries a special triple candlestick, known as the Paschal trikirion, and the deacon also carries a special Paschal candle. The candles lit at midnight are held by the people throughout the entire service, just as is done by the newly baptized.
  4. Before the front doors of the church, the priest gives the blessing for the beginning of Matins. The clergy, followed by the people, sing the Paschal troparion with the Paschal Verses, and the Paschal greeting "Christ is risen!" "Truly He is risen!" is exchanged for the first time. Then, everyone enters the church singing the troparion.
  5. The rest of Matins is celebrated according to special Paschal rubrics. Everything in the service is intended to be exultant and full of light. Nothing in the service is read, but everything is sung joyfully. During the Paschal Canon, the priests cense the church, continually exchanging the Paschal greeting with the faithful. Towards the end of matins the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom is proclaimed.
  6. Eggs which have been dyed red are blessed and are usually distributed to the people for the breaking of the Great Lenten fast.
  7. The Paschal Hours, which are of entirely different text than their usual order, are sung where it is the custom.
  8. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated as usual, but with special features added that are unique to the Paschal season.
  9. At the end of the service, the Artos, a large loaf of leavened bread, which represents the Resurrected Christ, is blessed. This is then set next to the Icon of the Resurrection and is venerated by the faithful and carried in processions throughout Bright Week.
  10. Baskets of food for the feast that follows are blessed with holy water.

The service typically finishes at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. There is no prescribed service on Sunday morning, everything for the feast having been celebrated during the Vigil. On Sunday afternoon there is a special, Paschal Vespers, at which the Gospel (John 20:19-25) is chanted in many languages (called "Vespers of Love" in some traditions).

The week that begins on the Sunday of Pascha[20] is called Bright Week, and is considered to be one continuous day. The Holy Doors of the iconostasis are left open from the moment they were opened at midnight throughout all of Bright Week, being closed only at the end of the Ninth Hour on Bright Saturday. Most of the unique features of the Paschal services continue through the week and following the Liturgy there is a festive procession around the outside of the church every day and the entire week is a fast-free period, even on Wednesday and Friday, which are normally fast days throughout the year.

Oriental Orthodoxy

The Oriental Orthodox Churches consist of several different liturgical traditions.

Indian Orthodox Church

In the Indian Orthodox Church the vigil begins in the evening after the service on Good Friday. The faithful spend time in the church reading from the scriptures and singing hymns.

The church celebrates this most important festival in the church calendar, as per the Gregorian Calendar.

Traditionally, the principal service which corresponds to the Easter Vigil in Eastern and Western rites would be conducted in the early hours of the morning, typically at around 3 a.m. on Sunday. In many cities, however, the service is conducted after 6:00 p.m. on Saturday; this is also the case for practical reasons in former Christian lands of the Oriental Orthodox rite which now have Muslim majorities.

Easter marks the change in the set of prayers said and sung before the Eucharist. From Easter to the Feast of the Cross on September 14, the prayers follow the Liturgy of Easter.

"News Of Great Joy!"

Traditionally the Prayers of the Night and Midnight Hours are said. Then follows the most dramatic moment in the service, the Announcement, when all the lights in the church are extinguished other than from the Altar candles and those held by those serving at the altar. The veil separating the sanctuary from the congregation is drawn aside. The chief celebrant stands in the centre of the sanctuary, holding a cross covered in a red embroidered cloth. This is the cross which has been used in the Good Friday service for the procession commemorating the Carrying of the Cross to Calvary and then ritually embalmed and buried in a small coffin-shaped box behind the altar, to commemorate the Burial. The chief celebrant is flanked by the altar-servers, holding candles and hand-bells. In a loud voice, the chief celebrant announces to the congregation, “Dearly beloved, I bring you all news of great joy. Our Lord Jesus Christ has resurrected from the dead and defeated His enemies.” Amid the ringing of the hand-bells and church-bells, the congregation responds, "Truly, we believe that He is risen!” This is done three times.

An Indian Orthodox Easter procession

The Easter Procession follows, in which the entire congregation, holding lighted candles, participates with the celebrants and the altar servers. The cross, covered in the red veil, used in the Announcement, is carried in procession around the church. The hymn sung during the procession describes Christ's answer to Mary Magdalene, when she sees him at the tomb and mistakes him for the gardener:

An Easter Cross
O Mary! I am the Gardener truly,
I am the One, Who established Paradise.
I am the One Who was killed,
I am the One Who entered the grave.
Touch Me not, for I have not ascended to the Father.
That I have gloriously arisen from that grave,
Give thou this good news to the disciples.

Following this, the chief celebrant "celebrates" the Cross, by blessing the four directions while the Trisagion is said.

The chief celebrant gives the Kiss of Peace, commemorating Christ's wishing peace on the Apostles. This is passed on to the congregation. On this day alone the Kiss of Peace is given twice.

Prayers of the Morning hours follow, and the Holy Qurbana is then conducted as usual.

Since Easter also marks the end of the Great 50-day Lent the Service of Reconciliation (Shubhkono) is also held on this day. Special prayers are said.

Blessings from the Easter Cross

At the end of the service, instead of the normal touching by the Chief Celebrant’s hand of the foreheads of each member of the congregation in blessing, the Easter Cross is used.

The Easter Cross on its stand in the sanctuary

From Easter to the Feast of Ascension, the Easter Cross is moved from the centre of the church to a stand inside the sanctuary. This stand, called Golgotha, is itself shaped as a large cross. The Easter Cross is set on its head, and the whole structure looks like a Patriarchal Cross. It had been set up in mid-Lent in the centre of the church and the faithful would kiss the cloth covering it while entering and leaving the church.


  • Тvпико́нъ сіесть уста́въ (Title here transliterated into Russian; actually in Church Slavonic) (The Typicon which is the Order), Москва (Moscow, Russian Empire): Сvнодальная тvпографiя (The Synodal Printing House), 1907, p. 1154
  • Потребникъ (Title here transliterated into Russian; actually in Church Slavonic) (The [Book of] Needs), Москва (Moscow, Russian Empire): патриархальная тvпографiя (The Patriarchal Printing Press), 1606
  • The Lenten Triodion, translated from the Original Greek by Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, USA: Saint Tikhon's Seminary Press (published 1987), 1978, p. 193, ISBN 1-878997-51-3
  • Sokolof, Archpriest Dimitrii (1899), Manual of the Orthodox Church's Divine Services, Jordanville, New York: Holy Trinity Monastery (published 2001), pp. 132–136, ISBN 0-88465-067-7
  • Ware, Timothy (1963), The Orthodox Church, London, UK: Penguin Books (published 1987), p. 193, ISBN 978-0-14-013529-9


  1. ^ Thomas J. Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, Inc., 1986, pp.48-49.
  2. ^ Andrew J. Ekonomou. Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes. Lexington books, 2007.
  3. ^ Roman Missal, The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, 2
  4. ^ Thomas Talley claims that the original readings of the Roman paschal vigil were Genesis 1, Genesis 22, Exodus 14, Deuteronomy 31, Isaiah 4, Isaiah 54 and Baruch 3.
  5. ^ Times and Seasons: The Easter Liturgy
  6. ^ Mahrenholz, Christhard: Agende II für evangelisch-lutherische Kirchen und Gemeinden, Lutherisches Verlagshaus, Berlin 1960, pp. 304 - 306; Schmidt-Lauber, Hans-Christoph: Die Zukunft des Gottesdienstes, Calwer Verlag, Stuttgart, 1990, pp. 395 - 396
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m The United Methodist Book of Worship. United Methodist Publishing House. 1992. pp. 368–376. ISBN 9780687035724.
  8. ^ Тvпико́нъ, p 456
  9. ^ The Lenten Triodion, p 655
  10. ^ See the section on the original eschatological character of the Paschal Vigil in Quartodecimans
  11. ^ Потребникъ
  12. ^ Sokolof, p 105
  13. ^ Тvпико́нъ, p 456
  14. ^ Тvпико́нъ, p 472, for the subsequent Sundays, "Are read from the Acts from the beginning or from the Commentaries of Chrysostom
  15. ^ Тvпико́нъ, p 457
  16. ^ The Lenten Triodion, p 660
  17. ^ Тvпико́нъ, p 457-458
  18. ^ Тvпико́нъ, p 458
  19. ^ Sokolof, p 106
  20. ^ The Catholic scholar, Jean Danielou suggested in an article ("Les quatre-temps de septembre et la fete des tabernacles," in La Maison Dieu 46 (1956)121, 124-127, that the Evangelist John composed his gospel so that the reading of his gospel in the Christian community for which wrote it would correspond with the Jewish legal calendar which began at Passover. If this is true, then the Byzantine tradition of reading the opening chapters of John's Gospel at the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of Pascha and during Bright Week would go back to the time of the very writing of the Gospel itself.

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A brazier () is a container for hot coals, generally taking the form of an upright standing or hanging metal bowl or box. Used for burning solid fuel, usually charcoal, braziers principally provide heat, but may also be used for cooking and cultural rituals. Braziers have been recovered from many early archaeological sites like the Nimrud brazier, recently excavated by the Iraqi National Museum, which dates back to at least 824 BC.

Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass is a religious service held in Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism.Maundy Thursday is notable for being the day on which the Chrism Mass is celebrated in each diocese. The Chrism Mass is one of the most solemn and important liturgies of the liturgical year. Usually held in the diocesean cathedral, it is generally held on the morning of Maundy Thursday, but may in some dioceses take place on another day during Holy Week. It is often the largest annual gathering of clergy and faithful held in most dioceses. In some dioceses, attendance is sufficiently significant that, due to limited seating, tickets are distributed to parishes. The Mass is a celebration of the institution of the priesthood with Jesus' words at the Last Supper, "Do this in memory of me." During the Mass, those present are called to renew their baptismal promises; priests/ministers and deacons also reaffirm their ministry by renewing the promises made at their ordination.The Mass takes its name from the blessing of the holy oils used in the sacraments throughout the year, which are then given to priests/ministers to take back to their parishes. The Rite of Reception of the Oils by representatives of the diocesan parishes is a sign of each parish's unity with the Bishop and the diocesan Church. Whenever the holy oils are used, the ministry of the bishop who consecrated them is symbolically present. The oils distributed are meant to last all year, although extra oil is also blessed during the Mass and is kept at the cathedral as a reserve if a parish runs out.The service is a 1967 restoration of the rite recorded in the early 200s by the historian Hippolytus who writes of a ceremony taking place during the Easter Vigil at which two holy oils were blessed and one was consecrated. In the fifth century, the ceremony of the oils was transferred from the Easter Vigil to Maundy Thursday during a special Mass for that purpose, distinct from the Mass of the Lord's Supper. The change took place, partly, because of the large crowds that assembled for the Easter Vigil, but also to emphasize Christ's institution of this ordained priesthood at Maundy Thursday's Last Supper. In the decree renewing this rite Pope Paul VI said:“The Chrism Mass is one of the principal expressions of the fullness of the bishop’s priesthood and signifies the closeness of the priests with him.”The Holy Oils are:

Chrism – used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, as well as for the consecration of altars and the dedication of churches.

the oil of catechumens – also used in the sacrament of Baptism, and

the oil of the sick – used in the rite of the Anointing of the Sick

The oil of the catechumens and chrism are used on the upcoming Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil, for the baptism and confirmation of those entering the church.

While the Oil of the Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick, are simply "blessed," the Sacred Chrism is "consecrated,". Holy chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balsam, an aromatic resin. Balsam is poured into the oil, which gives it a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the "odor of sanctity" to which those who are marked with it, are called to strive. The bishop breathes over the vessel containing the chrism, a gesture which symbolizes the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate this oil, and recalls the actions of Jesus in John 20:22, when he breathed on the apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit..." The priests concelebrating the Mass extend their hands toward the vessel containing the chrism and say the prayer of consecration silently as the bishop pronounces it over the chrism.

Easter Fire

Easter fires are typically bonfires lit at Easter as part of liturgical and secular celebrations.

Easter water

Easter Water is the name given to water used in rituals during the Easter Vigil in the Catholic Church. A part of this water is set aside for use as a sacramental in the church and at home, the remainder being ceremonially mixed with consecrated oils and used for baptisms in the church.

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday (Latin: Sabbatum Sanctum), the Saturday of Holy Week, also known as Holy and Great Saturday, the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Joyous Saturday, Hallelujah Saturday (in Portugal) or Easter Eve, and called "Joyous Saturday" or "the Saturday of Light" among Coptic Christians, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter. It commemorates the day that Jesus' body lay in the tomb and the Harrowing of Hell.

Holy Week

Holy Week (Latin: Hebdomas Sancta or Hebdomas Maior, "Greater Week"; Greek: Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Ἑβδομάς, Hagia kai Megale Hebdomas, "Holy and Great Week") in Christianity is the week just before Easter. It is also the last week of Lent, in the West, – Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday), Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday (Holy Friday), and Holy Saturday – are all included. However, Easter Day, which begins the season of Eastertide, is not. However, traditions observing the Easter Triduum may overlap or displace part of Holy Week or Easter itself within that additional liturgical period.

Holy Week and Easter Day liturgies attract the biggest crowds of the year. Many cultures have different traditions like Easter eggs, floats, sculptures of Christ's life, arrest and burial and contributing to the Great Feasts, to echo the theme of resurrection.

Litany of the Saints

The Litany of the Saints (Latin: Litaniae Sanctorum) is a formal prayer of the Catholic Church and Western Rite Orthodox communities. It is a prayer to the Triune God, which also includes invocations for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and all the martyrs and saints upon whom Christianity was founded, and those recognised as saints through the subsequent history of the church. Following the invocation of the saints, the Litany concludes with a series of supplications to God to hear the prayers of the worshippers. It is most prominently sung during the Easter Vigil, All Saints' Day, and in the liturgy for conferring Holy Orders.

Liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII

The liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII continued a process initiated by Pope Pius X, who began the process of encouraging the faithful to a meaningful participation in the liturgy. Pope Pius XII redefined liturgy in light of his previous encyclical Mystici corporis and reformed several liturgical practices in light of this teaching. The liturgical teaching of Pius XII is contained especially in his encyclical Mediator Dei of 1947. Although Pius XII felt compelled to reprove the desire for novelty among certain leaders of the Liturgical Movement, the liturgical reforms undertaken later in his pontificate were in fact relatively broad in their scope.

Lumen Christi

Lumen Christi (Latin: Light of Christ) is a Versicle sung in Catholic, Lutheran and some Anglican churches as part of the Easter Vigil. In Lutheran and Anglican services, it is sung in the local language. It is chanted by the deacon on Holy Saturday as he lights the triple candle. In the English Sarum Rite, one candle is lit.

Pascha Nostrum

Pascha Nostrum is a hymn sometimes used by Christians during Easter season. The title is Latin for "Our Passover," and the text consists of the words of several verses of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 5:7–8, Romans 6:9–11, and 1 Corinthians 15:20–22.

The Latin text is: Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus, alleluia: itaque epulemur in azymis sinceritatis et veritatis, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

After the Reformation it was preserved (in an English translation) in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, appointed to be said in place of the Venite at Morning Prayer on Easter Day. In some churches it may be used in place of the Gloria in Excelsis during the Easter season, especially at the Easter Vigil. It has been put to many different musical settings.

In some Anglican churches, the first verse of it is used as a Fraction Anthem.

In the Catholic Church, in masses celebrated according to Divine Worship: The Missal, the first verse is said or sung responsively by the priest and congregation after the sign of peace as the priest breaks the host. It is followed by the comixture and the singing of the Agnus Dei.

The words in English, as printed in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, are as follows:


Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;

therefore let us keep the feast,

Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,

but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;

death no longer has dominion over him.

The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;

but the life he lives, he lives to God.

So also consider yourselves dead to sin,

and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead,

the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

For since by a man came death,

by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die,

so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

Paschal Triduum

Easter Triduum (Latin: Triduum Paschale), Holy Triduum (Latin: Triduum Sacrum), or Paschal Triduum, or The Three Days, is the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. It recalls the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the canonical Gospels.In the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed traditions, the Paschal Triduum straddles the two liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter in the Church calendar; however, in the Roman Catholic tradition, since the 1955 reform by Pope Pius XII, the Easter Triduum has been more clearly distinguished as a separate liturgical period. Previously, all these celebrations were advanced by more than twelve hours. The Mass of the Lord's Supper and the Easter Vigil were celebrated in the morning of Thursday and Saturday respectively, and Holy Week and Lent were seen as ending only on the approach of Easter.

After the Gloria in Excelsis Deo at the Mass of the Lord's Supper all church bells are silenced and the organ is not used. The period that lasted from Thursday morning to before Easter Sunday began was once, in Anglo-Saxon times, referred to as "the still days".In the Catholic Church, weddings, which were once prohibited throughout the entire season of Lent and during certain other periods as well, are prohibited during the Triduum. Lutherans still discourage weddings during the entirety of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum.

Paschal candle

This article describes the Paschal candle of the Western Churches. For the Paschal triple-candle used in Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches of the Byzantine rite see Paschal trikirion.

A Paschal candle is a large, white candle used in liturgies in Western Christianity (viz., the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, Lutheran, and Methodist churches, among others). A new Paschal candle is blessed and lit every year at Easter, and is used throughout the Paschal season which is during Easter and then throughout the year on special occasions, such as baptisms and funerals.

The equivalent of the Paschal candle in the Western Orthodox Church is the Paschal trikirion which differs both in style and usage.

Peter Li Hongye

Peter Li Hongye (1920 – April 23, 2011) was a Roman Catholic bishop from China.

Li Hongye was the underground Roman Catholic bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Luoyang. He died suddenly during the Easter Vigil liturgy.

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), or Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum (OICA) is a process developed by the Catholic Church for prospective converts to Catholicism who are above the age of infant baptism. Candidates are gradually introduced to aspects of Catholic beliefs and practices. The basic process applies to adults and older children, with younger children initiated through an adapted version sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children (RCIC).

Some Catholic movements, like the Polish Light-Life and the Neocatechumenal Way originated in Spain, promote post-baptismal formation based on the RCIA. Similarly, the Knights of Columbus provides a free correspondence course under the Catholic Information Services (CIS) program.According to William Harmless, when the Vatican promulgated the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in 1972, it showed unexpected radicalism. The true goal of the document was a reversion of a thousand years of initiatory practice and attitude of the Western Church. Ralph Keifer described it as a liturgical revolution, "under the aegis of an ecumenical council, with the approval of the Roman see, and over the signature of the Roman pontiff, the primary rites of initiation ... have been turned upside down and inside out, heralding a cry to begin a reform and renewal of the most radical sort.” Harmless pointed out that the whole project can be easily tamed, watered down, or ignored as it introduces things radically different from many of the Church's inherited liturgical, pastoral, and catechetical habits. He notices also that the document gives only the barest outline and needs to be completed by a thorough research of the practice of the Fathers of the Church who were experts in the field of Christian initiation.The ideal is for there to be an RCIA process available in every Roman Catholic parish. Those who want to join an RCIA group should aim to attend one in the parish where they live.

For those who join an RCIA process it is a period of reflection, prayer, instruction, discernment, and formation. There is no set timetable and those who join the process are encouraged to go at their own pace, taking as much time as they need.

The US bishops have said that the process "should extend for at least one year for formation, instruction, and probation" for those who have had no previous experience with living a Christian life. However, "nothing ... can be settled a priori. The time spent in the catechumenate should be long enough—several years if necessary—for the conversion and faith of the catechumens to become strong." For those who have some experience leading a Christian life, the process should be much shorter, "according to the individual case."Those who enter the process are expected to begin attending Mass on a Sunday, participate in regular faith formation activities, and to become increasingly involved in the activities of their local parish.

Priests "have the responsibility of attending to the pastoral and personal care of the catechumens." Throughout the process, they are assisted in this by deacons and catechists.

Sacred fire

Sacred fire or holy fire may refer to:

Religionany instance of fire worship

fire personified in Indo-European religion

Atar in Zoroastrianism

Agni in Vedic religion and Hinduism

Sacred fire of Vesta in Roman polytheism

Holy Fire, a concept in Orthodox Christianity

The sacred fire in Solomon's Temple

The sacramental blessed Easter fire outside a Catholic church at the Easter Vigil night Mass on Holy Saturday which is the source of the flame for the Paschal candle, then the parishioners' candlesDiseaseVarious diseases all also referred to as St. Anthony's fire (disambiguation)Popular cultureSacred Fire EP is a 2011 album by Jimmy Cliff

Sacred Fire: Live in South America a 1993 album by Santana

Sacred Fire, a 2003 Dragonlance novel by Chris Pierson

Holy Fire, a 1996 novel by Bruce Sterling

Holy Fire, an album by Foals released in 2013

The Holy Fire, an American indie rock band

The Holy Fire, an EP by the eponymous band released in 2004Other

Holy Fire (fire), 2018 wildfire in California

Sunrise service

Sunrise service is a worship service on Easter practiced by some Protestant churches, replacing the traditional, ancient Easter Vigil preserved by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches.

The service takes place outdoors, sometimes in a park, and the attendees are seated on outdoor chairs or benches.

Triple candlestick

A triple candlestick is until 1955 prescribed in the Roman Rite Easter Vigil service, held on Holy Saturday morning.In the associated ceremony, the deacon or priest lights each of its three candles in succession, chanting each time in ascending tones, "Lumen Christi" (The light of Christ), to which the choir answers "Deo gratias" (Thanks be to God). From one of the candles on the triple candlestick, the Paschal Candle is afterwards lit during the chanting of the Exsultet.In 1955 the triple candlestick was abolished in the liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII. Since then, even with the promulgation of new editions of the Roman Missal from 1962 onward, the Paschal Candle is lit directly from the Paschal fire at the beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass.

Verona Sacramentary

The Verona Sacramentary (Latin: Sacramentarium Veronense) or Leonine Sacramentary (Sacramentarium Leonianum) is the oldest surviving liturgical book of the Roman rite. It is not a sacramentary in the strict sense, but rather a private collection of libelli missarum (missal booklets) containing only the prayers for certain masses and not the scriptures, the canon or the antiphons. It is named after the sole surviving manuscript, Codex Veronensis LXXXV, which was found in the chapter library of the cathedral of Verona by Giuseppe Bianchini and published in his four-volume Anastasii bibliothecarii vitae Romanorum pontificum in 1735. It is sometimes called "Leonine" because it has been attributed to Pope Leo I (died 461), but while some of the prayers may be his compositions the entire work certainly is not.The Codex Veronensis LXXXV was copied in the early seventh century outside of Rome, but some of its material is clearly derived from Roman pamphlets (libelli missarum) and dates to the fifth and sixth centuries. Its contents are arranged according to the civil calendar, but the three quires containing the period 1 January – 14 April are lost. Thus, there is no information in the earliest Roman liturgical book concerning the Easter Vigil.

Versus de pelegrino

The Versus de pelegrino or Verses about the Stranger is a medieval Latin drama composed by an anonymous playwright of Vic c. 1130. The Versus is a short piece of only forty lines on the meeting between Mary Magdalene and the glorified Jesus Christ on the road as recorded in the Gospel of John (chapter 20). It is a follow-up to the Verses pascales de tres Maries and was probably designed as a liturgical drama for Easter Vigil as well.

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Ordinary Time I
Paschal Triduum
Easter Season
Ordinary Time II
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