The Easter Vigil, also called the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in many Christian churches as the official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, this is the preferred service for people to be baptized. It is held on the night of Holy Saturday. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Easter Vigil includes the first use of the word alleluia since the beginning of Lent and is the most important Mass of the liturgical year as well as the first Eucharist of Easter. In Eastern Orthodoxy its Divine Liturgy is held to be the brightest of all of them and is reflected to a degree in all the others. The Easter Vigil has gained similar regard in many of the churches of the Anglican Communion.
Although the Easter Vigil is not universal in the Anglican Communion, its use has become far more common in recent decades. Formerly it was only common in parishes in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.
The service follows more or less the same form as in the Roman Catholic Church though normally with considerably more music. The current version of the Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, for example, begins the service similarly to the description of the Roman Catholic service above, with some differences in names and custom. For example, the lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures number between three and nine.
The traditions differ mainly in that the service of baptism is held immediately after the reading of the lessons. Traditionally, adults who have not yet been baptised are baptised at this service, although children may be as well. Confirmations occur only when the bishop is present, because, in the Anglican tradition, only a bishop may administer confirmation.
After the service of baptism, the celebrant announces the ancient Easter acclamation “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” to which the people respond “The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!” The Gloria in Excelsis, Te Deum or Pascha Nostrum is then sung.
The service of the Holy Eucharist then continues as usual.
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