THE GREAT VIGIL OF EASTER
• Until the Consecration, reverencing will consist of a simple bow.
• Once the Paschal candle is in place in the chancel, whether walking alone or in pairs, the candle is passed on the right, giving the left shoulder to the candle; pairs do not split around the candle.
Near the west door of the church:
The sexton sets up a cart on which is placeed a knife, flint lighter, tongs, one briquet for the thurible – placed off to one side so CEL can find it – two tapers, and a brazier filled with charcoal. The sacristan places on the cart the candle nails, incense grains, and service notebook. It is recommended that CEL also carry a flint lighter, just in case.
In the Baptistry:
The sexton fills the font.
MC places texts, a pitcher of water, customary baptismal setup, vial with chrism, the salt, the aspersorium (holy water bucket) and aspergillum, and additional towels on the altar. The Altar Guild prepares this setup. Containers for gathering baptismal water are placed under the bench.
The D will carry in the Paschal Candle.
The Chancel and High Altar:
The customary High Mass setup, using the jewelled vessels, is placed at the High Altar credence. Two purificators are placed in the burse in addition to the purificator over the Mass chalice. The normal Reservation ciborium is placed at the credence as well.
The Altar Guild places the paschal candlestand in the center of the chancel. A stepladder is placed discreetly behind it.
Office lights, sanctuary lamps, and pavement lights are unlit.
The Altar Guild places the Lady Chapel lectern in front of the paschal candlestand, sufficiently far forward to avoid the “dead spot” in the chancel. The book of Vigil readings is placed on or near the lectern. The Epistle Lesson is placed on the usual lectern at the Epistle side.
Altars are vested in white and decorated with flowers.
MC places handbells for clergy and servers about the High Altar, credence, and bishop’s throne.
Servers place hymnals, texts, and programs for clergy and servers at sedilia, stools, and in stalls.
Servers place candle-lighters and tapers strategically.
MC places extra hand-held candles at credence in case of need during the Liturgy of the Word.
Servers remove altar cloths and place Gospel book in the center of the altar.
MC places white chasuble and all 3 maniples over altar rail on Epistle side. Maniples are not worn until the Offertory.
The Celebrant wears white cope. The Deacon wears white dalmatic and stole. The Subdeacon wears white tunicle. Choir Clergy vest in surplices and white stoles. Only CEL wears a cope.
Servers are vested in cottas and black cassocks.
MC ensures that the crypt door is unlocked. The Altar Guild spreads a corporal before the crypt tabernacle.
MC sets hand-held candles for servers in the smoke sacristy and distributes them before the entrance to any empty-handed servers. CHOIR may use penlights; otherwise MC places choir’s hand-held candles in the choir room.
AA carry unlit torches. (TTTT do not carry torches until Offertory.) Except for SMs and TH, all others (MC, TTTT, CMs) carry hand candles. Those in pairs carry candle in the outer hand; singles carry candle in right hand.
An unlit vigil light is placed in the smoke sacristy to hold the New Fire during the Liturgy of the Word. One T will be responsible for supervising all the candle-lighting during the Baptismal Rite.
TH prepares coals in thurible. Incense is not laid on.
Before the service, the lights in the church are kept to a minimum to maintain the air of mystery. The chancel, chapels, side aisles, crossing, and most of the nave are dark. Ideally, only the light over the Brimmer Street door is left on so that people may enter safely. At 6:30pm, an usher stands outside the Brimmer Street door to ask people to enter through the parish house so that they are not injured when the New Fire is brought out.
MC ensures that candidates for Baptism (if any) and their sponsors and families are present. The verger will lead them to the baptistry following the altar party. The library should be available if they need to entertain young children during the Liturgy of the Word.
One of the five Old Testament Readers is appointed to make sure all Readers are present before the service begins, and to report the same to the MC.
THE BLESSING OF THE NEW FIRE:
At a prearranged time the sexton turns out all the lights in the church.
The CHOIR will be in place at the back of the church prior to the entrance of the SMs, clergy, and servers.
ALL enter in darkness from rear door that leads to Moseley Hall. The order for this procession is as follows:
A CR A
SD CEL D
Avoiding overcrowding and an accidental auto da fe, ALL place themselves around the new fire setup across the back of the church in the following arrangement. AA should pause to let CR precede them.
A CR A
[ cart ]
MC SD CEL D
TTTT CHOIR CLERGY/CMs TH CHOIR
In the darkness, CEL kindles the fire and addresses the people with the words, Dear friends in Christ …
With MC holding the book and SD and D lifting the cope, CEL blesses the new fire, saying, O God, through thy Son thou hast bestowed …
TH raises the lid on the thurible. Using tongs, D ignites the briquet from the new fire and places it in the thurible. CEL puts on incense and blesses it. TH gives thurible to CEL, who censes the fire three times. CEL hands thurible to TH.
THE PREPARATION OF THE CANDLE:
D presents the Paschal Candle to CEL, who prepares it. SD holds card with text for CEL.
After the Candle is blessed, CEL lights a taper from the new fire, and using it to light the Paschal Candle, says: May the light of Christ, gloriously rising…
CEL extinguishes taper and gives it to MC.
The sexton and sacristan remove the cart.
THE SOLEMN PROCESSION:
With MC and SD holding edges of CEL’s cope, the procession is formed:
A CR A
SD CEL MC
Led by D, the procession to the Chancel pauses three times. The first two pauses are in line with the pillars in the nave; the final pause will occur at the crossing (the same three places where the veneration cross paused during the Good Friday liturgy). At each pause, D turns to face the congregation (and to see when all are in place), raises the Candle and sings, The Light of Christ. ALL, except D and CR, genuflect and respond, Thanks be to God.
At the first pause, D turns to face TH. MC comes forward, gets light from the paschal candle, and then gives to the CEL. ONLY the CEL gets light at this point.
At the second pause, after versicle and response, D turns to face TH again. MC comes forward, gets light from the paschal candle, and lights AA’s torches, SD’s candle, and passes light to the rest of the procession. Note that the congregation’s candles are NOT lighted at this point!! Servers and choir should discourage any congregants who attempt to grab light from their candles.
At the third pause in the crossing, D turns, pauses, and lowers candle slightly so the ushers can light tapers from it to pass the new fire, finally, on to the people.
ALL proceed into Chancel and take their places:
- D places Candle in stand and joins SMs and MC
- MC, SD, and CEL by south choir stalls, facing north
- TH to D’s right
- AA to places on either side of lectern, facing each other
- CR to stall (putting cross in holder)
- TTTT to their places by the bishop’s throne: they should pass the Paschal Candle single file on the left (an exception to the rule about passing the candle) and enter the altar area by the opening at the Gospel end of the rail.
- CHOIR CLERGY and CHOIR to their stalls.
When all are in their places, D censes candle, then returns and hands off thurible to TH, who moves to stand in front of North choir stall. [If D is also chanting the Exsultet, this censing takes place after D has bidden CEL’s blessing.]
Either the D or a chorister may chant the Exsultet. The cantor, carrying the book of the Exsultet, genuflects before CEL. The cantor says Bid, sir, a blessing. CEL blesses him/her as before the Gospel, but says, “…proclaim his paschal praises…”
Cantor proceeds to the lectern and sings the Exsultet.
At the conclusion of the Exsultet, ALL extinguish their hand-held candles except TTTT, CEL, and MC.
TH and AA turn and, led by TH, proceed to their customary places at the foot of the altar steps, lining up with the horns of the altar.
SMs and MC proceed single file to altar steps. ALL line up at altar steps. CEL introduces the Scripture readings and asks people to extinguish their candles. ALL reverence; TH exits to smoke sacristy; all others go to sedilia, led by MC, and sit. All TTTT but one extinguish their handheld candles; the remaining T exits to smoke sacristy to light a reserved vigil light to keep the New Fire burning during the Liturgy of the Word, leaving the extinguished handheld candle in the smoke sacristy. MC lights a large hand-held candle from AA torch and uses it to follow the service leaflet. MC holds candle for CEL to read the Collects during the Liturgy of the Word.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD:
Each lesson is read, without announcement or conclusion, from the lectern in the midst of the choir. If a penlight is provided, the light should be switched off after each reading. After each lesson, the CHOIR chants a psalm.
After the psalm, ALL stand. CEL chants the Collect (Tone II). SD may hold the text for CEL. This pattern is repeated through the fifth lesson.
At the conclusion of the final lesson, the reader extinguishes the lectern candles.
After the final Collect, CHOIR may change sides for motet.
THE BLESSING OF THE FONT [AND HOLY BAPTISM]:
ALL stand. SD, CEL, D, AA carrying their candles, and MC line up at altar steps in the usual order (A SD CEL D MC A). As the Choir is getting into position for the motet, CEL faces the people. D and SD face CEL but AA and MC remain facing the altar. When the Choir is in place, CEL reads the invitation (“Now that our Lenten observance is ended…”). SMs face altar. ALL reverence and turn. D goes down to candle stand and removes Candle, then goes to bottom of choir steps.
CR takes cross from holder and moves out to choir floor.
MC signals AA to join CR on choir floor.
D, carrying candle, leads procession to the font.
While the CHOIR sings the motet, the people relight their hand-held candles. D pauses at crossing so ushers can get light from the Paschal Candle. The following proceed to the font via the main aisle:
A CR A
A CR A stand against pillar at baptistry entrance so as not to block the people’s view.
MC, Choir clergy
D CEL SD
A CR A
(in front of confessional)
Meanwhile – as the procession reaches the Baptistry, CMs, TTTT and TH light office lights on all altars, candles in the rood screen, all sanctuary lamps*, and pavement lights: if it has a wick, light it! Do not rush; there is plenty of time to light everything. (*The silver sanctuary lamp will not be lighted for this service.)
The Blessing of the Font [and Baptism(s)] are carried out according to the customary form. A choir cleric assists MC with hardware throughout the rite. SD holds book for CEL who blesses the water [and performs the baptism(s)]. The Peace is not bidden here!
The CEL scoops baptismal water into the aspersorium, then takes aspersorium and aspergillum as procession re-forms.
At the conclusion of the baptismal rite, the people return to their pews as the CHOIR begins the Litany of the Saints. A CR A should allow the people to clear the aisle before leading altar party back to the altar in procession. The procession re-forms and proceeds to the Chancel via the main aisle in the order in which it came, except that MC (on CEL’s right) and SD (on CEL’s left) hold the edges of the cope. During the procession, CEL sprinkles the people with the baptismal water.
While procession returns to chancel, sacristan assists sexton to fill holy water stoups, remove water from font into containers, and removes all vessels from Baptistry to Sacristy after the procession has left the Baptistry.
D puts Paschal Candle in stand. CR returns to CR stall. AA, MC, and SMs line up at altar steps in the usual order and reverence. CHOIR CLERGY retire to stalls. ALL remain standing.
MC signals TH to enter. TH goes to center and reverences, as D steps back to allow room for TH to present thurible to CEL. CEL puts on incense and blesses it. TH takes place between A and D at foot of altar steps.
THE FIRST MASS OF EASTER:
When the Litany of the Saints is ended, SMs go up to the footpace. AA, TH, and MC proceed to the credence. SMs reverence the altar. D and SD turn inward to face CEL. CEL turns to face the people and shouts the Easter Acclamation. ALL respond; be prepared for multiple shouts, molto con brio – the more so the better, especially if the Celebrant is feeling frisky and does not find the congregation’s enthusiasm in responding adequate to the occasion.
SMs turn to face altar. ALL pick up their handbells as the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is intoned. The CHOIR ring their bells and are soon joined by ALL as the lights are turned on. The cacophony is tastefully exacerbated by an organ fanfare.
At the conclusion of the fanfare, ALL cease bellringing. SMs remain at footpace. TH brings thurible up to CEL. The altar and CEL are censed in the usual manner. TH exits. SMs take up usual positions for the rest of the canticle.
After Gloria in Excelsis, CEL chants the Collect.
At the end of the Collect, SD immediately goes to center, reverences, and goes to Epistle lectern to read the Epistle (no more Old Testament tonight!).
After the lesson, these things happen simultaneously:
- MC signals TH to enter and AA’s to meet him/her at center.
- SD proceeds to footpace, moves Altar Book, and goes the usual position in Gospel Procession lineup. ALL stand.
- CHOIR intones the Great Alleluia and ALL respond. This is repeated two more times, each at a pitch higher than that preceding. After the Great Alleluia, the Gospel Procession forms during the singing of Psalm 114 with interpolated Alleluias.
The Gospel Procession is according to custom, except: REMEMBER TO BOW, NOT GENUFLECT! The Holy Gospel is followed by a homily. The Creed, Prayers, Confession, and Absolution are omitted. The Peace is bidden following the homily.
The Mass continues as usual, with much jubilation and Alleluias at every opportunity. CEL changes to white chasuble at Offertory, all SMs don maniples, and CR takes out the cope. TTTT, PROCESSORS, AND TH DO NOT GENUFLECT AT THE RECEPTION OF THE ELEMENTS!!!
At Agnus Dei, MC signals TH and TTTT to genuflect at departure. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME A GENUFLECTION IS SIGNALED DURING THIS MASS! During the Agnus Dei, a choir cleric retrieves the reserved Sacrament from the crypt and places It on the High Altar to be combined with the Sacrament from this Mass. NOW we can genuflect!
The Mass concludes in the usual manner, with double Alleluias added to the Dismissal and Response (the Easter Dismissal, to be used at all Masses throughout Paschaltide).