This morning, I was up at 3.40am in order to be outside the Church at 4.40 am, before dawn to begin the Easter Vigil.
There in the garden outside, the Easter fire was lit, we gathered silently around it in the darkness and a wind blew the flames high into the night. Then came a procession of ministers -led by the cross and the paschal candle… the ministers gathered round the fire, the light picking out the gold embroidered flowers on their robes. Prayers were said and the paschal candle was lit… then the crowd followed the candle and cross as we moved towards the chapel… stopping three times to declare ‘The Light of Christ’, our own candles were gradually lit, and so by the time we gathered in the great hallway of the monastery, the darkness was dispelled by a crowd of handheld candles, fluttering round the great paschal candle in the centre of the room.
There we heard the Exsultet sung… a herald proclaiming God’s triumphant redemption of creation and then the story of creation, fall, sorrow, hope and redemption through passages of the Bible, interspersed with sung psalms and canticles, until after the seventh… we all rang bells, large and small, and blew whistles and made a joyful noise to break the silence that we had been keeping since the end of Maundy Thursday’s liturgy… and singing the Gloria which had been long omitted.
Singing prayers we went into the chapel where we declared our faith and renewed our baptismal vows, splashing ourselves with water from a font; then we went on to share the peace of Christ and declare joyfully to one another: ‘Christ is Risen!’ ‘He is Risen Indeed!’ then celebrating the Eucharist, singing the responses together and sharing bread and wine.
If you have never kept Holy Week, or celebrated the Easter Vigil, you might not know what Christ has done for us all, how he has taken the weight of justice for all that we have done wrong, so that we can receive the Holy Spirit now and be in love, with God for eternity.
…He is Risen Indeed. ALLELUIA!