Probably no service in the Liturgical calendar is more beautiful and meaningful than the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening. Albeit long, Holy Mother Church
gathers her children together for this special service to not only celebrate the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but also the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.
The Night-watch of the Resurrection begins with the Church totally dark to symbolize the tomb. One candle is lit - the Easter or Paschal Candle which will be lit for every Mass until Pentecost Sunday. The Blessing of the New Fire is accompanied by the Blessing of the Paschal Candle in reaffirming Christ as the "light of the world." This is followed by the Processon and Exultet. Then the light from that Candle is passed to the individual candles the congregation hold and from pew to pew light filters into the Church as the procession begins three times the celebrant chanting "Lumen Christi"- "Light of Christ" to which all answer "Deo Gratias."
Once the celebrant, in purple vestments, reaches the altar the deacon places the Paschal Candle in its permanent holder and the Easter Proclamation begins. Following is the lengthy seven readings or Lesson from the Prophecies and seven accompanying responsorial psalms or readings, all from the Old Testament to symbolize the lengthy time those who were loyal to the Old Covenant spent in Limbo before being released to Heaven by Christ's Death. It was during the three days in the tomb that Christ "descended to the dead" to call all God's faithful ones from Adam and Eve to the day Christ died into Heavenly bliss.
We then move into the New Covenant with the Epistle and Gospel Readings followed by Liturgy of Baptism where candidates who have been undergoing the catechumen program are now fully accepted into the Mystical Body of Christ's One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. First the Litany of Saints to unite us in the Communion of Saints as we, the Church Militant join the Church Suffering in Purgatory and the Church Triumphant in Heaven to profess our faith, hope and love in the Trinity and Christ's victory over death. There is then the Blessing of Water and the candidates renounce their sins, make their profession of faith and then receive the Sacrament of Baptism with first the saving water, then the anointing with Chrism oil, clothed with the Baptismal garment and presented a lighted candle symbolic that they have been brought into the Light of Christ and rid of Original Sin. The entire congregation then join the newly baptized candidates in Renewal of their Baptismal Promises by first renouncing their sins, then a Profession of Faith and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises by all holding their lit candles. The Celebrant then sprinkles all with Holy Water from the asperges. The second part of the Litany of the Saints is then recited as the vestments are changed to white and the Altar is prepared with lights and flowers.
As the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass begins the newly Baptized, for the first time are no longer catechumens, but now able to partake of this beautiful Liturgy and the entire Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We now have but a few hours to wait until that glorious day - Easter Sunday and the Resurrection - the beginning of the rest of our lives...forever!