“THIS IS THE NIGHT . . .”
You may have heard about the Great Vigil of Easter, but this year will be special. The Vigil is held the night before Easter (April 15, 7:00 p.m. at St. Andrew’s, East Carnegie). It is a beautiful, ancient liturgy that ends “The Three Days” (or Triduum), which are the most sacred days in the church’s life and calendar. It also ushers in the first celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection. This is a liturgy that has its roots in the first three centuries of the Christian Church. The focus is our Holy History and Holy Baptism.
A representative from each PLUM congregation brings their church’s Paschal (Christ) Candle. A fire (thanks to St. Patrick’s initiative) is started outside the church, the candles are blessed and lighted from the fire. The cantor and congregation chant three times: “This is the night; Thanks be to God” as we process into the fellowship hall of the church.
Once inside, we sit in a circle of chairs with lighted candles to hear the Easter Proclamation, a series of five lessons with prayer and musical response. The Proclamation is a long, but beautiful chant that reminds us of the significance of the Vigil. It is punctuated with the phrase “This is the night” which is sung by the cantor and the congregation. The five lessons will be presented in some unique ways to heighten our attention and to point us toward the significance of baptism.
Following the lessons, the focus will be directly on Holy Baptism, as we bless the waters in the font (bowl) and renew our own baptismal commitment. If there is someone who wishes to be baptized at the Vigil, this is especially meaningful for all involved. Check with one of the pastors.
When we have completed our Baptismal renewal, we will follow the Pascal Candle (our Pillar of Fire) up and into the dark sanctuary. We will sit in silence for a prolonged period of time (perhaps 5 minutes) as we await the Resurrection. Suddenly the lights go on, bells are rung, the organ begins to play the first Easter hymn and the congregation stands with enthusiasm and excitement. Christ has risen! THIS IS THE NIGHT . . .
This year, adding to the special nature of the Vigil, we will be honored to have our bishop, Kurt Kusserow worshipping with us and preaching at the Easter Celebration. We will also have the accompaniment of a brass quintet from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
We have usually had around 50 people attend, but there are always more places available. In fact, there is a place set for YOU. We try to start promptly at 7:00 p.m., because the entire Vigil lasts for several hours. By the time of the last hymn, we are all ready to break the Lenten fast in the fellowship hall of St. Andrew’s.
THIS IS THE NIGHT of which it is written: “The night is as clear as the day,” and, “then shall my night be turned into day.” See you on April 15.
+Pastor Paul KochOn behalf of the PLUM Pastors
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600