My first Easter Vigil was 3 years ago. I was not raised in a liturgical church so I had never experienced anything like it before. The only thing I knew about Easter was bunnies and egg hunts with lots of candy.
Three years ago John and I were new to St Mark’s. Father Christopher tried to describe the Holy Vigil of Easter to us but I wasn’t prepared for the power of what I experienced. I now understand that the Easter vigil must follow the experience of Lent and the first days of Holy Week. During Lent the church services become somber and the music turns to a minor key. The cross itself is shrouded. During Lent I began to miss the celebratory music and the more upbeat joy of the church community. Then Holy Week began which I found to be a dramatic and powerful experience. This was most especially true on Good Friday when the cross no longer proceeded into the congregation. Somehow that touched me deeply and I profoundly longed for the return of the cross.
During the Holy Vigil everything was returned to newness again. We started outside by the fire and slowly proceeded into the darkened church. Each member was given a candle and each candle provided a point of light until we were enveloped in a lovely candlelit space. John and I were baptized that year during the candlelight portion of the service. I will never forget its beauty and the warm welcome I felt into the Christian family. The icing on the cake was the lighting of the entire church and the return of the triumphant music of celebration. I have looked forward to the experience of Holy Week ever since.