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The Triduum
The Great Vigil of Easter

with Baptism and Reception of News Members

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

 

See Notes on the Easter Vigil for my approach to and preparations for this service.

 

        Like the children of Israel who watched and waited through the night for the Lord of the Exodus, we too come together this night to watch and wait for the Lord of the Resurrection. We come, as Christians have come since the first century, to keep vigil and to prepare ourselves for the arrival of the Bridegroom who is chief host and guest at the Easter feast to come.

        First, we must break the darkness of the night.   Like the virgins in the parable, we must light our vigil lights. Our light will be a very special light, for it is the light of Christ which burns atop the Paschal candle and which dispels the darkness -- of night, of sin, of death. Our light will be a constant reminder of the Easter victory during the coming season, at every baptism and at every funeral. But for now, it will burn in vigil as we await the Bridegroom.

        When we have settled into our pews for the watch, we hear the storytellers among us sharing the stories of our faith -- the stories of God's salvation history and the covenants which he made with our people. These are our "family" stories. We listen. We sing. We watch. And we wait for the feast to come.

        After hearing our stories, we make our last minute preparations to meet our Lord. All must be right for the feast. Those among us who have not yet joined us are brought into membership with us this night, making all who are here part of the family, which is the Church and the Bride of Christ. And so that the whole family is prepared, each of us renews our baptismal vows. As the water touches us, we hear and we feel that grace which was given to us through our baptism.

        We are nearly ready. The time is close.  Quickly we prepare the room and set the table. Flowers and banners must adorn the space, for it will be a feast to remember.

        And then at last He comes! The Easter victory is won! The Bridegroom has come through the darkness to claim his Bride, the Church, to be his own. This is the feast of victory!

 

LITURGY OF LIGHT

The people gather in the Fellowship Hall for the lighting of the Paschal Candle.

.

P. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

C. And also with you.

 

P. Sisters and brothers in Christ, on this most holy night when our Savior Jesus Christ passed from death to life, we gather with the church throughout the world in vigil and prayer.  This is the passover of Jesus Christ.  Through light and the word, through water and oil, through bread and wine, we proclaim Christ's death and resurrection, share Christ's triumph over sin and death, and await Christ's coming again in glory.

    Let us pray. O God, you are like a refiner's fire, and your Spirit kindles the hearts of your faithful people. Bless this flame and those who keep this Easter Vigil so that, burning with desire for life with you, they may be found fit to take part in that festival of Light which has no ending, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

C. Amen

 

The inscription on the Paschal Candle is traced by the Presiding Minister, while saying:

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P. Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the ending, Alpha and Omega; all time belongs to him, and all ages; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.

C. Amen

 

The Presiding Minister places the five nails, representing the five wounds of Christ, into the Paschal Candle, while saying:

 

P. By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard and keep us.

C. Amen

 

The Paschal Candle is lighted.

 

P. May the light of Christ who rises this night in glory scatter the darkness of our hearts and minds.

    Let us pray.  Almighty God, pour out your abundant blessing on this lighted candle, so that all who share this night in your holy mysteries may be filled with your grace and spiritual blessings. Once we were in darkness, but since we have become the Lord's people, we are in the light. Help us to live as people who belong to the light, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

C. Amen

 

THE PROCESSION

The people follow the Paschal Candle into the darkened church, singing the response below three times. After the first response, hand candles are lighted from the Paschal Candle and passed among the people, who carry them into their pews and remain standing.

Do not tip a lighted candle.

P. (sing) The Light of Christ!

C. (sing) Thanks be to God!

 

THE EASTER PROCLAMATION

Remain standing, please.

The Paschal Candle is placed in the center of the chancel while the chancel lights are brought up. During the singing of the Easter Proclamation, the acolyte lights the window candles.

 

P. Rejoice, now, all heavenly choirs of angels, and celebrate the divine mysteries with exultation; and, for the victory of so great a King, sound the trumpet of salvation. Exult, also, O earth, enlightened with such radiance; and, made brilliant by the splendor of the eternal King, know that the ancient darkness has been banished from all the world. Be glad also, O mother Church, clothed with the brightness of such a light, and let this house resound with the triumphant voices of the peoples. Wherefore, dearly beloved, who stand in the clarity of this bright and holy light, join with me, I ask you, in praising the loving kindness of almighty God; through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and rules with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C. (sing) Amen

 

P.  The Lord be with you.

C. And also with you..

 

P. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

C. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

 

P. It is indeed right and salutary that we should with full devotion of heart and mind and voice praise the invisible God, the Father Almighty, and his only Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ; who paid for us the debt of Adam to the eternal Father, and who by his precious blood redeemed us from the bondage to ancient sin.

    For this indeed is the Paschal Feast in which the true Lamb is slain, by whose blood the doorposts of the faithful are made holy. This is the night in which, in ancient times, you delivered our forebears, the children of Israel, from the land of Egypt; and led them, dry-shod, through the Red Sea. This, indeed, is the night in which the darkness of sin has been purged away by the rising brightness. This is the night in which all who believe in Christ are rescued from evil and the gloom of sin, are renewed in grace, and are restored to holiness. This is the night in which, breaking the chains of death, Christ arises from hell in triumph. For it would have profited us nothing to be born had we not also been redeemed.

    Oh, how wonderful the condescension of your loving kindness! Oh, how inestimable the goodness of your love, that to redeem a slave you delivered up your Son! O necessary sin of Adam that is wiped away by the death of Christ! O happy fault that was worthy to have so great a Redeemer! O night truly blessed which alone was worthy to know the time and the hour wherein Christ arose again from hell!

    This is the night of which it is written: "and the night is as clear as the day"; and, "then shall my night be turned into day." The holiness of this night puts to flight the deeds of wickedness; washes away sin; restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn; casts out hate; brings peace; and humbles earthly pride.

    Therefore, in this night of grace, receive, O holy Father, this evening sacrifice of praise, which the Church lays before you in the solemn offering of the candle. We sing the glories of this pillar of fire, the brightness of which is not diminished even when its light is divided and borrowed. For it is fed by the melting wax which the bees, your servants, have made for the substance of this candle. O night truly blessed in which heaven and earth are joined -- things human and things divine.

    We, therefore, pray to you, O Lord, that this candle, burning to the honor of your name, will continue to vanquish the darkness of this night and be mingled with the lights of heaven. May he who is the Morning Star find it burning -- that Morning Star which never sets, that Morning Star which, rising again from the grave, faithfully sheds light on all the human race.

    And we pray, O Lord, rule, govern, and preserve with your continual protection your whole Church, giving us peace in this time of our Paschal rejoicing; through the same Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C. Amen

All extinguish their candles and are seated.

 

STORIES OF A SALVATION PEOPLE

Ideas for the presentation of these stories are at Six Stories for the Easter Vigil
and in the version links below.

While we wait in vigil for the resurrection Lord, we tell the stories of our "family" history, recalling how God loved and saved his people throughout history.

 

The Story of Creation:

   Genesis 1:1-2:4a [RSV or TEV]

   Hymn #557 "Let All Things Now Living"

   Prayer:   C. Amen

 

The Story of the Flood:

   Genesis 7:1-5,11-18; 8:6-18; 8:8-13 [TLW]

   Prayer:   C. Amen

 

The Story of Abraham and Isaac:

   Genesis 22:1-18 [LB]

   Prayer:   C. Amen

 

The Story of the Exodus:

  Exodus 14:10-15:1a [TLW or TEV]

  Hymn (Canticle) #19 "I Will Sing to the Lord"

The minister sings the first whole verse.
Then the people sing the rest of this
Song of Moses and Miriam.

   Prayer:   C. Amen

 

The Story of Jonah:

  Jonah 3:1-10 [TLW]

  Hymn #343:1,2 "Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer"

  Prayer:   C. Amen

 

The Story of the Three Young Men:

  Daniel 3:1-29 [LB or TLW]

  Hymn (Canticle) #18 "All You Works of the Lord"

All stand to sing this song of the three young men.

 

RITE OF HOLY BAPTISM AND RECEPTION OF NEW MEMBERS

Baptismal candidates, sponsors, and those to be received into membership assemble at the Baptismal font with the ministers and the Paschal Candle

Presentation of the Candidates, ELW p.227, LBW p.121

Profession of Faith & Baptism, LBW Page 123

 

Thanksgiving at the Font V (ELW)

P. The Lord be with you.

C. And also with you.

 

P. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

C. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

 

P. Holy God, holy and merciful, holy and mighty, you are the river of life, you are the everlasting wellspring, you are the fire of rebirth.  Glory to you for oceans and lakes, for rivers and streams.  Honor to you for cloud and rain, for dew and snow.  Your waters are below us, around us, above us:  our life is born in you.  You are the fountain of resurrection.  Praise to you for your saving waters:  Noah and the animals survive the flood,  Hagar discovers your well.  The Israelites escape through the sea, and they drink from your gushing rock.  Naaman washes his leprosy away, and the Samaritan woman will never be thirsty again.  At this font, Holy Dog, we pray:  Praise to you for the water of baptism and for your Word that saves us in this water.

The minister divides the water in the form of a cross.

Breathe your Spirit into all who are gathered here and into all creation.  Illumine our days.  Enliven our bones.  Dry our tears.  Wash away the sin within us, and drown the evil around us.  Satisfy all our thirst with your living water, Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C. Amen

The Paschal Candle is lowered into the baptismal water as a sign of Christ's burial and rising, as the minister says:

 

P. May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with him to newness of life.

C. Amen

 

Baptism, Anointing, Baptismal Candle, ELW pp.230f, LBW pp.124f

 

Rite of Affirmation of Baptism:

     Presentation of Candidates ELW p.234, LBW p.198

     Affirmation by Candidates ELW p.236, LBW p.201

 

Welcoming of New Members:

P. Through Baptism God has made these new sisters and brothers members of the priesthood we all share in Christ Jesus, that we may proclaim the praise of God and bear his creative and redeeming Word to all the world.

C. We welcome you into the Lord's family. We receive you as fellow members of the body of Christ, children of the same heavenly Father, and workers with us in the kingdom of God.

After receiving their certificates, the new members return to their places.

 

RENEWAL OF BAPTISMAL VOWS

P. Sisters and brothers, on this most holy night, the Church keeps vigil, awaiting the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul teaches us that by baptism, we were buried with Christ and lay dead in order that as Christ was raised from the dead in the splendor of the Father, so we should set our feet on the new path of life. Therefore, now that the struggle of Lent is over, let us renew the promises made at our baptism. I ask you, do you renounce all the forces of evil, the devil and all his empty promises?

C. I do.

 

P. Do you intend to continue steadfast in the confession of faith which you made with the Apostles' Creed and to suffer all, rather than deny Christ?

C. I do so intend, with the help of God.

 

P. Do you intend to continually conform your life to the divine Word, to be faithful in the use of Word and Sacrament, and in faith, word and action to remain true to the Triune God?

C. I do so intend, with the help of God.

 

P. People of God, you had made your profession of faith and renewed the vows of your baptism. By water, you were cleansed and brought to newness of life in the Spirit. May God grant that, as this water of remembrance touches you this night, you may feel and know the grace and favor which God has given you through your baptism.

C. Amen

 

During the Litany which follows, the people are sprinkled with the Baptismal Water as a remembrance of their own baptism. It is appropriate to make the sign of the cross when sprinkled, just as this sign was made upon us at baptism. We proudly bear the sign that makes us Christian -- the cross of Christ.

 

LITANY OF THANKSGIVING

 

A. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. Who has loved us from all eternity:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. And remembered us when we were in trouble:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. And was made flesh of the Virgin Mary and became human:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. Who by his cross and suffering has redeemed the world:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. And washed us from our sins in his own blood:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. Who on the third day rose from the dead:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. And has given us the victory:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. Who ascended on high:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. And opened wide for us the everlasting doors:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. Who is seated at the right hand of God:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. And ever lives to make intercession for us:

C. For his mercy endures forever.

 

A. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

C. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

A. For the gift of his Spirit:

C. Blessed be Christ.

 

A. For the holy catholic Church:

C. Blessed be Christ.

 

A. For the means of grace:

C. Blessed be Christ.

 

A. For the hope of glory:

C. Blessed be Christ.

 

A. For the triumphs of his gospel:

C. Blessed be Christ.

 

A. For the lives of his saints:

C. Blessed be Christ.

 

A. In joy and in sorrow:

C. Blessed be Christ.

 

A. In life and in death:

C. Blessed be Christ.

 

A. Now and unto endless ages:

C. Blessed be Christ. Blessing and honor and thanksgiving and praise, more than we can utter, more than we can conceive, be to you, O holy and glorious Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, by all angels, all humanity, and all creatures, forever and ever. Amen

 

The ministers depart, then the people are seated.
Silence follows, while the chancel is made ready for the Easter celebration.

 

THE FEAST OF VICTORY

As the ministers enter, all stand.
The Presiding Minister sings the Alleluias to the following hymn, then all sing the Alleluias:

 

Hymn of Praise  "The Strife Is O'er"

During the hymn the Gospel Book is brought forward to the people.

 

P. The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, the twenty-eighth chapter.

C. Glory to you, O Lord!

 

Gospel Lesson: St. John 20:1-18

 

P. The Gospel of the Risen Lord!

C. Praise to you, O Christ!

 

Hymn of the Day  "He Is Arisen! Glorious Word!"

Prayer of the Church

Sharing the Peace of the Risen Lord

 

Offering   During the Offering:

     Hymn  "Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds"

Offertory Prayer: "Blessed are you..."

Great Thanksgiving (spoken)

Eucharistic Prayer for Easter (ELW VII, LBW II)

Our Father (spoken)

 

Distribution

     Hymn  "Thine Is the Glory"

 

Post-Communion Prayer

Benediction & Dismissal

Closing Hymn  "Christ Is Risen! Alleluia!" stanza 1

Postlude

 

Please join us for a champagne reception in the fellowship hall following the liturgy.