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The Feast of the Resurrection

The Vigil of Easter

In this most holy night our Savior, Christ the Lord, broke the power of death and by His resurrection brought life and salvation to all creation. Let us praise the Lord, for He truly keeps His word. The sun of righteousness has dawned upon us who have sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Carracci Annibale - Holy Women at Christ s Tomb.jpg

An Overview

The Vigil of Easter is a curious event in the history of Christianity. It appears that it was largely celebrated in the Easter (Greece, Turkey, Middle East, North Africa) and was somewhat unknown among Western European Christians, at least by the time of the Reformation. In the middle of the 20th Century, there was somewhat of a liturgical revival that sought to re-introduce it among Catholic, Lutherans, and Anglicans. As a result, we don't have any unbroken tradition about "how" to celebrate the Vigil of Easter. Some will celebrate on Holy Saturday, some will truly "hold vigil" from Saturday night until daybreak on Sunday. Others will gather in the early hours on Easter Day to begin the feast.

In the early days of Christianity (and still in some congregations today) the Vigil of Easter was a time when baptism was celebrated, young people were welcomed to the Sacrament of the Altar for the first time, and confirmation was bestowed so that all could begin anew their Christian life with the resurrected Jesus. An historical overview of the Vigil from a Lutheran perspective can be found here.

The way we do it here at St. John's is probably unique to us. That may rub you the wrong way, but there is a beauty in having local and tribal customs that, even if not perfectly in-step with the rest of Christianity, reflect a diversity in practice that is centered on a unity of doctrine.

The Shape of the Vigil at St. John's is as follows

  • Gathering outside around a fire before sunrise to hear the story of salvation beginning with Creation

  • Praying the Litany of the Resurrection when the sun creeps over the Big Horns

  • Processing into the Church shouting "Alleluia! Christ is Risen!"

  • Breaking the Liturgical fast by singing the Gloria in Excelsis 

  • Hearing the account of the empty tomb (Mark 16)

  • Sermon

  • Offering

  • Prayers

  • Service of the Sacrament

If you'd like to see how other Christians celebrate the Easter Vigil, you can watch some videos here:


Artwork: The Women at the Empty Tomb, Annibale Caracci. Italian, 16th century .From the State Hermitage Museum.

Prophecies read at the Great Vigil of Easter

  • The Creation Genesis 1:1-2:3

  • The Flood Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13

  • The Testing of Abraham Genesis 22:1-18

  • Israel's Deliverance at the Red Sea Exodus 14:10-15:1

  • Salvation Offered Freely to All Isaiah 55:1-11

  • A New Heart and a New Spirit Ezekiel 36:24-28

  • God's Faithfulness to Israel Deuteronomy 31:19-30

  • The Valley of Dry Bones Ezekiel 37:1-14

  • Job Confesses the Redeemer Job 19:20-27

  • Jonah Preaches to Nineveh Jonah 3:1-10

  • The Gathering of God's People Zephaniah 3:12-20

  • The Fiery Furnace Daniel 3:1-30

Artwork:  "Manuscript Illumination with the Holy Women at the Tomb," Girolamo dai Libri. Italian, ca. 1490–1500. Met Museum of Art.

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