In these days of central heating, we may have lost the significance of a hearth to a home! Traditionally, the hearth has been the ‘heart’ of the home (both words come from the same root). The hearth was important for cooking and warmth but also a place to welcome and gather. The saying ‘Keep the home fire burning’ is loaded with meaning. In certain large households, to allow the fire to go out was a big mistake!
At the Easter Vigil, we gather in darkness, drawn to the light of a flame. And, as countless generations of people have done around a fire since ancient times, we tell stories and sing songs. The song that stands out is the joyful Easter Proclamation, the Exsultet, calling the whole of creation to rejoice in the Resurrection of Christ!
Our storytelling is drawn from Scripture as we recount the great ‘water adventures’ from the Story of our Salvation, beginning with the creation of the world from Genesis 1, as God moves over the waters of chaos, bringing life and order.
We hear the story of the Great Flood of forty days through which Noah and his family are saved and, of course, the Exodus of Israel through the waters of the Red Sea, an event which defines the People of Israel and is a symbolic reminder of our Baptism in Christ.
We hear the invitation from the prophet Isaiah to ‘Come to the water all who are thirsty,’ and we will sing from the Psalms those beautiful songs of thirst and refreshment: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’ and ‘Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.’ The storytelling is drawn from a rich well!
Seven readings and psalms are provided for in the rite but most parishes appear to take the shorter option and restrict it to three Whichever option is taken, the atmosphere is one of waiting and watching. It is, after all, a vigil, the Passover of the Lord!
As the Mass of Easter begins we hear words from the letter of St Paul to the Romans calling us back to our baptism. ‘When we were baptised in Christ Jesus, we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.’ (Romans 6:3)
‘COME TO THE WATER’
And there is more to come! As we gather around the flame, illuminated by the light of Christ, we are drawn to another ‘magnetic’ feature, this time: water. We gather at the Baptismal Font, singing the Litany of Saints, for we are walking into a new kingdom, accompanied by Christians who have lived throughout generations with whom we are united in Christ. We are drawn to the waters of rebirth, a powerful symbol of the life that God pours out upon us, quenching our thirst, filling us with the Holy Spirit, and raising us to life with Christ Jesus. This is THE time for Baptism!
POWERFUL AND PROFOUND
The Easter Vigil is full of rich symbolism. It is powerful, profound and so important to Christians. It is the heart of all our celebrations, the most important liturgy of the year. If Sunday is the most important day of the week, providing meaning, rhythm and focus to our lives, then the Easter Vigil does the same for our whole lives throughout the year. It is this celebration from which we draw meaning, and to which we eagerly look forward.
The symbolism of the Easter Vigil is even more powerful when it is celebrated, as it has been done since earliest times, through the night and ending at the rising of the sun.
As the Gloria of the Easter Mass is sung, the sun begins to rise and shines through the East Window, reminding us of the rising of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, whose light has overcome the darkness of death. However, most parishes opt for starting and ending the Vigil on the evening before, but whenever it is celebrated it should not begin before nightfall. The Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) with which we begin our vigil goes:
‘Rejoice, O Earth in shining splendour,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered!
Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!’
The Easter Vigil is the most important celebration of the Christian Year. To this extent, it is unmissable! Why not commit now to participating in this wonderful celebration?!
We hope these prayers will offer some help for you in your time of pain and sadness.
Here you will find
prayers of comfort and assurance,
prayers that help to express anger or hurt or pain,
prayers to strengthen and console,
prayers, too, for your departed loved one and to commend them to God.
May the love of God
and the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ
and gently wipe away every tear from our eyes.
And may Almighty God bless us,
the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lord, in our grief we turn to you.
Are you not the God of love
always ready to hear our cries?
Listen to our prayers for (insert name)
whom you have called out of this world.
Lead him/her to your kingdom of light and peace
and count him/her among your saints in glory.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayers of Trust
in darkness and light,
in trouble and in joy,
help us to trust your love,
to serve your purpose
and to praise your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen,
hear our prayers and comfort us;
renew our trust in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead;
strengthen our faith
that (insert name, and) all who have died
in the love of Christ
will share in his resurrection;
who lives and reigns with you, now and forever. Amen.
Prayers of Hurt and Anger
you know our hurts and share our sorrows.
We are hurt by our parting from (insert name) whom we have loved:
when we are angry at the loss we have sustained,
when we long for words of comfort,
yet find them hard to hear,
turn our grief to truer living,
our affliction to firmer hope
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Father, the death of (insert name)
brings an emptiness into our lives.
We are separated from him/her
and feel broken and bewildered.
Give us confidence that he/she is safe
and his/her life complete with you,
and bring us together at the last
to the wholeness and fullness of your presence in heaven,
where your saints and angels enjoy you for ever and ever. Amen.
When Lonely or Afraid
Risen Lord Jesus,
draw near to us as we walk this lonely road.
Pierce our weary sorrow
and gladden our heavy hearts as you go with us,
and bring us in the end to your heavenly table. Amen.
whose Son Jesus Christ said,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”,
take away our fear of death;
bring us to the place that he has gone to prepare for us;
and give us his peace for ever. Ame
If you’ve ever been drawn to the warmth of a real fire in the hearth
or gathered at a well or the water’s edge,
then you’ll know the natural attraction of fire and water!