Non Solum: Reflecting on the Easter Vigil

With Easter behind us, I have had a bit of time to reflect on the Easter Vigil and its solemnity. During my reflection, a reader wrote me with an interesting question:

I attend Mass in a small parish. We had just under 300 attend the Easter Vigil liturgy and almost 800 at the 9:00 AM Mass and almost 500 at the Noon Mass. My question is this: How do we/can we fill the pews for the Easter Vigil liturgy, arguably the most important Mass of the year?

I think the reader’s question is an interesting one. As the reader points out, the Easter Vigil is of course one of the most important celebrations of the whole liturgical year.

I must say, that I have always been blessed to attend an Easter Vigil in a packed church. In the parishes I have been during Holy Week, the Triduum liturgies have been standing room only. The only Mass with more people in attendance than the Easter Vigil is Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (and yes it is celebrated at midnight). But I imagine my experience of a packed church during the Triduum is the exception, not the rule.

I too wonder how we can catechize the faithful on the importance of attending the Triduum liturgies and the Easter Vigil in particular.

What steps did your community take to “advertise” the Triduum liturgies and the Easter Vigil in particular? How are you catechizing your parishioners on the importance of these liturgies?

Please comment below.

36 comments

  1. About a month before Easter, every year over the last several years, I find a two-page brochure on my front porch left by the ever-active Jehovah’s Witnesses, inviting me to a special event commemorating a miracle that happened two thousand years ago. If only I could go, I would!

    At about the same time I get mailers from the neighborhood Baptist and Methodist churches inviting me to celebrate Easter with them. Date, place, time.

    I wonder how effective the brochures and mailers are. I wonder if my home parish tried something similar and sent–by postal mail, not by email–an informative and persuasive invitation to the Easter Vigil, if more people could come and the church would be filled with people. I wonder how much it would cost. Maybe there’s only one way to find out.

    1. @Vic Romero – comment #1:

      I wonder why more Catholic parishes don’t do simple things to reach out like you mentioned, the Easter mailers. I wonder if people have the idea that that equates to proselytism/”solemn nonsense” or something Catholics don’t do “because Vatican II” or some other reason.

  2. My hunch is that the reasons underneath the generally lower attendance at Easter Vigil don’t really have much to do with advertising. Remember that a good chunk of those huge morning crowds are un-churched, non-practicioners. The Baptist and Methodist churches are probably only inviting you with one time for a service on Easter, two at most. Your RC flyer would probably list 4-5 or more, including the Vigil, all of which fulfill the Easter Sunday duty/obligation. And the non-churched folks would probably not be ready to give up a Saturday night for church – it’s date night, movie night, etc.
    Sunday morning for Easter is what’s largely in everyone’s consciousness – we’ve only had the restored Vigil for about 60 years, which is yesterday in change-the-liturgical-practice time.
    Even with relentless catechesis about Triduum and Vigil, I’m not sure that a huge number of people would be in attendance – among the 300 mentioned in the letter above, I’m wondering how many were there for the first time, and how many had attended previous Vigils and decided to come back. It’s a very long service at an inconvenient time – – in a surrounding culture (including Parish culture around liturgical celebration) that values convenience and efficiency, this is an uphill climb.
    [I think there’s also something to be said about general lack of awareness/enthusiasm about new, non-infant members joining the Body, but that would be another post.]

    1. @Alan Hommerding – comment #2:
      “My hunch . . .”
      “I’m not sure that . . .”
      A lot of guessing.

      There are ways to find out. And find out with a credible amount of certainty. Except for CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, and outfits like it, the Catholic Church’s entities don’t use much polling or surveys to find out. Guess here. Conjecture there. Assume everywhere.

      Do we want to know? Maybe we should ask.

      So easy to dismiss suggestions from other people with “I don’t think that’s it at all. I don’t think that’s gonna work.”

      Generalizations based on assumptions, not evidence.

      1. @Vic Romero – comment #6:
        Because we have so little in the way of verifiable data (almost next to nothing) is the reason I use those phrases. Even CARA, I’d offer, would be hard pressed to ascertain WHY people don’t attend Easter Vigil (or don’t attend it more than once).
        In blog response threads there is too much universalizing of anecdotal experience and/or finding causality between event occurrences where no linking causality has actually been determined.
        Until such time that we get statistical information and some verifiable causalities, I find it better to be honest about my own uncertainty. However, I will always give you some reasons that I’m making a specific guess or expressing a hunch about something. There were a number of things in my post about which I am certain (the increasing valuation of convenience and efficiency in the surrounding culture, for example).

      2. @Alan Hommerding – comment #7:
        “. . . Even CARA, I’d offer, would be hard pressed to ascertain WHY people don’t . . .”

        So easy to have an opinion . . . before you even asked.

        Why don’t we ask CARA? And let them answer.

        And saying “that’s just my opinion’ is no shield against doubts or questions or counterarguments about your opinion. This is a court of logic and reasoning. You bring it up. It’s fair game, your honor.

      3. @Vic Romero – comment #8:
        I suppose somebody could ask CARA – the reason I think they’d be hard pressed is because the base sample would be difficult to obtain – though I suppose the group “people who did NOT attend the Easter Vigil” would be pretty large and so statistically viable.
        I never stated anywhere that expressing what was my opinion was a shield against doubts, or questions, or counterarguments. Merely to state why I didn’t put forth as fact what I know are only opinions.
        And I am now officially at my self-imposed three-posts-per-thread limit.

  3. We, a merged parish with 9000 registered families, just experienced the most meager attendance at EV in 22 years. Why? For us, it was a simple change in episcopal change and mandate. Our still relatively new bishop decided that “The Elect” who will receive the three sacraments of initiation are the only ones to do so on the EV. We now have five separate confirmations that occur in the one mother church. Whereas, three years ago, 120+ adult Elect, confirmandi and first communicants were initiated under the previous bishopric at the EV.
    Those numbers bring family and friends and result in SRO EV’s. It shouldn’t go without mention that a bursting congregation at EV is also a powerful witness to evangelization. The richest rituals, the most public of professions and confessions- wouldn’t it be at least logical to expose those family and friends who aren’t in Communion with the RCC to the pre-eminent liturgy of the year?
    I don’t get the new strategy of balkanizing confirmations according to youth, RCIA, the Way or other catechesis criteria.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #3:
      It is recommended that the EV initiation is for the elect. There are other days during the liturgical year that those seeking full communion be received, confirmed and receive first Eucharist. The separation, I think, is to make sure that the baptism of those seeking full-communion is not regarded as invalid or of no consequence. While the RCIA ritual does allow for both at the EV, it does, I believe, strongly indciate that the two groups’ be kept separate.

      I’m not sure the EV is ultimately about how many are there and why.

  4. How visible are the liturgical rites of the RCIA? If catechumens and candidates are present, welcomed, and prayed for at all the parish liturgies, more people are invested in their formation.

    Our parish had sixteen initiated at the Vigil this year, many between 6 and 15, and their families and friends were there (there’s a whole OTHER story about how many of those families came to be part of our parish in the last two years).

    We’ve taken 30+ years to learn how to pray well together as a community. We take the time for stories, song, silence and prayer. Once a year, it takes three hours to do that and we’re shaped by our experience.

  5. The problem with CARA and virtually every other polling organization is that they they ask people what they think/do/want, but never really probe why they think/do/want it. Despite all the interesting statistics they amassed on RCIA, as presented to FDLC last year, I don’t really have much confidence in CARA’s data-gathering. Or anyone else’s. Snapshots are interesting, but not the whole truth by any manner of means.

  6. Where is Jack Rakosky when we need him? I miss his voice on this blog.

    Count me among those who don’t miss attending Triduum liturgies aside from Easter Sunday morning. Much to my surprise, mind you, I don’t miss them at all. I had my fill, and more and more, over a couple of decades. My feelings may change in future. Or not. For me, the reason is mostly logistical – the circumstances of my life have changed so that attending them necessarily involves more local parish communities (not where I my parish of choice on Sundays) where the music and preaching and other apsects are, well, underwhelming at best, and actively annoying at worst. And the communities seem to like it that way, so I wouldn’t agitate agin’ it, as it were. I just Prefer Not To, to borrow from Melville.

  7. Why don’t we optionally revisit baptisms and confirmations on Pentecost Vigil or Day? Americans don’t call Pentecost “Whitsunday” (ie “White Sunday”, when the catechumens are wearing their white robes), or the (cruelly deleted) octave “Whitsun-week”. Nevertheless for centuries in colder parts of Europe it was customary to baptize later, when the weather is warmer. This might not matter today, but the concept remains.

    Certainly, couldn’t this result in the Church restoring the Pentecost octave to the Ordinary Form? Shouldn’t we likewise bask for eight days in the wonder of theophany with a restored Epiphany octave? We’re on our way back home!

    1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #12:
      Confirmation on Pentecost Vigil/Day (followed by First Communion in the same liturgy) is a terrific idea, but there is no need whatsoever to restore the Octave of Pentecost. Remember, Pentecost is another name for the whole 50 day celebration. In some of the patristic literature, authors (mainly Easter, I believe) use Pentecost to refer to the whole 50 days. Thus, no need for an “Octave.”

      1. @Lee Bacchi – comment #18:
        Lee–this is true. The Paschal season in the Orthodox Churches is called “Pentecost” and the book used for the propers for the services is called the “Pentecostarion.” But, there is a clear cut-off that Pascha (Easter) ends on the night before Ascension Thursday, the troparion “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life” is no longer sung. It’s now, to use a Western term: “Ascensiontide,” while maintaining a Paschal character.
        However, Pentecost (the feast itself) still has a “post-festive” period (the whole week following the feast, which is entirely fast-free and kneeling during services resumes), again, to use a Western term: an “octave” which ends the next Sunday, All Saints Day. So that there is no need for an “octave” of Pentecost in the Roman Church is quite mistaken, because the Eastern Churches maintain a patristic octave of Pentecost also.

      2. @Lee Bacchi – comment #18:

        Yes, but only during the Pentecost octave may a priest say or sing the Veni Spiritus Sanctus. Also, there is great symbolism and sense of liturgical completion when Trinity Sunday is the close of the octave.

        Octaves allow for the extension of sequences for a week. Sadly, the severe reduction of octaves has almost entirely removed sequences from the life of the Roman rite.

      3. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #27:
        Well, I can’t see how adding octaves and having priests singing sequences makes for greater liturgical or personal spirituality. Anyway . . .

        If we look at John’s Easter Sunday story, the Spirit is given to those gathered in the upper room during the risen Jesus’s first appearance. For John, “Easter” and “Pentecost” happen practically simultaneously. Luke-Acts’ demarcation of Easter-Ascension-Pentecost has dominated our liturgical calendar, but I wonder if its domination has led to us failing to see the integral unity between thsse 3 dimensions of the Paschal Mystery and the Christ-event. I say that fully aware that John’s treatment of the Ascension is somewhat problematic.

      4. @Lee Bacchi – comment #34:

        Sequences are an important part of my spirituality. The Golden Sequence of Pentecost is particularly important, as it is not directly or explicitly about apostolic evangelization. The sequence is powerful because it describes the course of the lives of Christians as Christians. The last line, da perenne gaudium, “Grant eternal joy”, implies that life lived according to the apostolic faith grants us the reward of a happy death and the hope of salvation. Perhaps sequences have been suppressed since the recent reformation because many (most?) of them do not explicitly encounter the ostensible scriptural theme of the liturgical day or octave. However, each indirectly touches upon predicate or consequential ideas of the holy-day. The peril of 1969 is the tendency to downplay or remove any aspect of a liturgical day which is not painfully and obviously didactic. The sequences restore an implicit balance to the principal day and octave.

        With regard to the scriptural accounts, any modification of the calendar to explicitly refect scripture defeats the centuries-old collected wisdom of the Roman-rite and indeed the entire Church on the thematic relationships between scriptural events. The wisdom of liturgical time grants us insight into the way various days best interact to give us the fullest understanding of scripture. For this reason octaves are important, as each “great day” receives more time for meditation and presence in the life of a church community. Insight cannot be gained on one Sunday alone.

  8. I think the issue is time. People don’t want to go to a Mass which at the very least will be around 1.5 hours–which is a sad commentary on people’s priorities–but I think the length of the liturgy has a lot to do with why people don’t go; particularly those people in parishes who habitually attend the Saturday evening Mass but choose to attend Mass on Sunday morning only on Easter. Maybe those people are opting to chose to attend Mass on the day of Easter but like I said, I think the length plays a large role in why people chose to not attend the Vigil.

  9. For me the EV is the best liturgy of the year, and I think that is true even when it is not optimally done. It is simply an epic liturgy; from the lighting of the Paschal candle to the Exsultet to the readings which offer a summary of thousands of years of Judeo-Christian history, to the Gloria after six weeks of suppression to the sacramental rites to the final blessing. What we do in my parish leaves a lot to be desired: we start too early (it’s not really dark); we don’t do all the readings; we don’t plan enough to avoid at least one or two somewhat embarrassing gaffes. But even with that, it’s still great. So why do I think it doesn’t get the attendance it deserves? In a word, small t tradition.

    People go to Midnight Mass and have done so for generations. They know about it personally and not just as one option for worship. It’s just not like that for Easter. When I was a kid, I knew about Midnight Mass, but I was old enough to drive before I even knew there was an Easter equivalent. Culturally, we go to “sun rise (Son Rise?) services”. We have Easter Egg hunts. We get new Easter outfits. I think it is pretty much that simple.

  10. Two words that turn back the congregants…”it’s long.” Add a final four basketball game or a Master’s golf replay and the length will stop people.

    I remember working in a parish where a greeter mentioned there were four baptisms that Sunday morning and the people turned around and went out to the parking lot.

    Maybe another set of two words would also turn people away…if we were honest with a necessarily long service in the midst of a glorious weekend. “Nine readings”

    I’m not asking for a change in the Vigil but let’s be honest about the majority of our attendees and maybe ourselves if honest. Length is never a selling point…and this service is long.

  11. A popular alternative to attending the Easter Vigil in Ireland is the Easter morning Dawn Mass, outdoors weather permitting. Of course, the Day Mass is celebrated, music is probably basic, and there is some element of waiting for the sun to rise, perhaps just before Mass begins. It draws large crowds and more are scheduled each year.

    I think we’ll all agree what we find at the Easter Vigil varies hugely. There are parishes with no music whatsoever, begin in broad daylight, take 45 minutes, and it’s still bright when finishing. There are parishes who begin late, do a fair number of Old Testament readings, sing a fair bit, have a baptism or two, and take more than two hours. And there are celebrations in between and beyond the 2 hour mark. All depending on the decisions of the clergy, I imagine. A predictable celebration, well organised, with accessible and beautiful music which the people come to know, perhaps that would help people to identify with it.

  12. I know of a number of churches that do the Vigil so well that you can’t get a seat. Standing room only, even when you arrive one hour early. Other churches are sparsely populated. What’s different? The packed churches are the ones whose Sunday worship engages people year round. They look forward to the Vigil as the capstone of a year’s worth of praise and thanksgiving for what God has done, and is doing, in their lives. Not coincidentally, these places also tend to have adults to initiate at the Vigil.

    I am with Charles on this. The balkanization of the Christian initiation of adults into lots of separate celebrations at other times, so as to keep the Vigil “pure” is a misguided pastoral strategy. Sure, it’s messy and more complicated to combine them, but it’s better over the long run to re-associate Confirmation with Baptism, keeping the proper ritual distinctions but including more people in a great celebration. The reason for separating them is to avoid confusion, but honestly I don’t think people are confused. As though anybody could miss who is the newly baptized after seeing them drenched with water!

    A couple of other examples: Robust symbols matter. And immersion baptism is awe-inspiring. The pastor of a parish I know, where it is well-established, says that people come and even stand outside the windows to see it, so marvelous is it to behold. Another pastor, at a predominantly Latino parish, found the Vigil was faltering. They had placed it at 8 pm, for the Anglo community, who didn’t want to be out late. After a number of years, the pastor finally said, this isn’t working. He placed the Vigil at 11 pm, and incorporated baptism by immersion, and the church was swiftly packed. The Latino culture supported being out late!

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #19:
      I suppose I’ll have to remit my CMAA card now that I find myself in agreement with both Paul and Rita! But yes, Rita, it simply doesn’t pass the common sense smell test from any perspective. And yes, Paul, no one even thinks of asking those of us that they know have been in the trenches forever serving to adorn our liturgies worthily what we think about their “logic and strategies.” I’ve already brought it up in LitComm. post-mortem and was so tempted to revisit it at Pastoral Council last night. But I’m old enough now to know not to spit into the wind. 😉

  13. For RC Slavs and perhaps Germans as well, Procession with the MBS followed by Resurrection Mass starting just before or at dawn was always THE Mass to attend on Easter. And still is in these ethnic parishes. I think that re-programming these parishes to attend the Vigil would be difficult.
    And yet, for the Orthodox and some Greek Catholics, the only Paschal services start at 11:30PM on Holy Saturday and can go until 2AM or 3AM on Pascha, followed by the breaking of the Lenten fast by sharing in the blessed food in their baskets. And this service is usually packed and the congregations is mostly standing through all of it.
    Getting RCs to understand that a service that can run 1.5 hours (how it can be done in only 1.5 hours is another story) on Holy Saturday night IS Easter and the most important service of the liturgical year is an up-hill battle. You have to pick your battles.

  14. Building awareness through preaching and announcements can help to increase attendance over time. Our church is comfortably full for Holy Thursday and Good Friday and more than half-full for the Vigil, significantly more than even a few years ago. This bulletin insert (see below) was published about 10-15 years ago and I’ve used it often in different contexts. I’m afraid I have lost the reference-it may have been in Ministry and Liturgy magazine. It was offered for use free of charge.

  15. Come Celebrate the Three Great Days

    On the evening of Holy Thursday, Lent comes to an end, and we enter
    into the “Three Days” at the center of our year: The Easter Triduum.

    On these Three Days, our Church is at its best. In scripture, ritual, and song we proclaim the heart of what we believe and celebrate throughout the year. We gather often – at church, at home, – during the Triduum to reflect on the central reality of our faith, the death and resurrection of Jesus. During these Three Days, we renew our baptism and new Christians are initiated. These are the “highest holy days” of Christianity.

    You are invited to make these Three Days different from all the other days of the year.

    All members of our community are invited to plan ahead so that the entire time from Holy Thursday evening until the Easter Vigil is free of social engagements, free of entertainment, free of meals except for the simplest nourishment, free even of work.

    Because of the importance of these days, we are not merely invited:
    We are all needed to be present in the church.

    All of us need the whole community together on its greatest days, on Thursday April 2 at 7:00pm, on Friday April 3 at 3:00pm, and on Saturday April 4 at 8:00pm.

    These liturgies contain the most powerful rituals and symbols of the entire year.

    On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Mandatum—washing of feet as a sign of service, and hear the story of the Last Supper. On Good Friday, we hear the story of Jesus’ passion and death and we venerate the Holy Cross. At the Easter Vigil, we light the blazing Easter fire, hear the salvation history of our people, baptize and renew our baptismal promises, and celebrate Eucharist with renewed spirit.

    Plan now to celebrate with your parish family the three most important days in our year.

  16. My kids (age 10 & 12) attended their first Easter Vigil this year. Both of their parents are musicians, so we had avoided bringing them in the past because we would be busy, and yes, because it’s long. These are kids who generally do not like church. but what we found is that it was vastly preferable to Sunday morning for them. No big crowds (though a decent-sized assembly), lots of familiar faces, and they got to snuggle in the dark with their favorite family of babysitters. And of course, a bonfire, candles and all that. The only thing they complained about was our insensitivity to the suffering of the Egyptians in Exodus.
    I’ve heard other parents talk about the child-friendliness of the vigil, and I imagine some of you are nodding. I don’t know if that can be translated into PR copy, but at least we can mention it whenever possible.

  17. We have great attendance at each of the Triduum celebrations. And even greater participation because these services tend to attract the more devout. We have found ways to involve the community in supporting the faith journey of catechumens and candidates beginning with the Rite of Acceptance and continuing throughout Lent which motivates many to celebrate the Triduum with and for them. Our candidates for full communion were initiated on Holy Thursday but are present in their white garments at the Vigil to accompany the elect and to rejoice with them. The Vigil begins at 8:15 and concludes around 10:45, a commitment of time and attentiveness not likely to attract the less devout. Let’s face it, many of our parishes are little more than service stations that cater to those whose lives are so “busy”. Seven minute homilies, no periods of silence, uninspiring music, and a brisk pace are not good prep for a Great Easter Vigil. Those who participate in our vigil are so full of joy that they pour into our parish center afterwards for a grand reception for the newly initiated. Its our greatest social gathering of the year. Our RCIA has as its overriding goal to form intentional disciples of Jesus Christ. Thus formed, these neophytes act like leaven in the dough. We have been exploring Sherry Weddell’s books on intentional discipleship which estimate that the typical parish probably has no more than 5 to 7% of its members who so identify. A number of our leaders believe that we have a considerably higher number. I’d estimate it as closer to 20%. God is Good.

  18. Just some thoughts from the pews —

    1. There is nothing like the bully pulpit. I was in a parish that had sparse attendance at Christmas midnight Mass. The pastor said at every Mass that Midnight was the central spotlit Mass for Christmas (I think he was speaking for our parish, not theologically). Attendance almost doubled that year, and the heartfelt liturgy sustained and grew itself after that.

    2. As a choir member, my kids got used to the rhythms of the long Easter Vigil. Finally, my 20 year old’s job kept him away from that Mass. He went with me (back to the choir for me) to the morning Mass, with the Sequence and such. Afterwards, he was disappointed, saying, “well that was just like any other Sunday.” It surprised me, but he was right. It’s mostly about what you expect, and he expected the moody darkness to be turned to bright Alleluia light like he was used to.

    3. Certainly some won’t give up basketball or a movie or regular beer time for the vigil. But I remember a newspaper article advocating high-end expensive local dining. The author asked if one would spend over $100 on a concert evening for two, or a musical. If so, why not make the meal the center of the night rather than the preliminary to the event, and expect the excellence to befit the price? I think that applies to the Triduum as well. If one is a regular and faithful churchgoer, a gentle invitation to center on the challenge of this rich and full 6-hour 3-day celebration is no different than asking someone about retreats, Cursillos, small groups, or soup kitchen volunteering. It’s part of what we the parish do, a wonderful part, and why not come join us?

    I would only apologize if it is boring. But if it is boring, respectfully, you’re not doing it right.

  19. You are right Matt…not only is it what we do but it is who we are.

    Yes Rita, bigger symbols bigger return on the investment…we now have high schoolers asking to be in charge of the Easter Fire. A little water in the sprinkling rite gets “that was nice.” Waters flying everywhere usually elicits a joy filled smile…unless a parishioner is wearing a silk shirt.. (They withheld donations until the cost of the shirt was covered.)

    As our culture keeps dabbling in the need for gigabyte speed, the vigil length will have to be balanced by the heartfelt notion that will allow one to say after 2 and half hours…”that meant something.”

  20. One practical problem with the liturgies of Thu-Fri-Sat arises from their uniqueness: especially in parishes that address musical diversity by programging different styles of music at different Masses on weekends, the Triduum will often involve either a lowest-common-demoninator approach or a grab-bag approach that will underwhelm many and annoy some. (This tends to be less of a problem in internationally gathered communities have have some greater homogeny in liturgical music taste.)

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #31:

      Karl, the Church has a time-honored chanted soundtrack for these days. There are also certain motets which are traditional for the triduum. There was a musical tradition before Year One, and we should revive it with gusto.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #32:
        I am aware of that, but it is scarce on the ground in suburbia, where pastors seem to conspire to ensure there’s nothing to distinguish their parishes from neigboring parishes that might invite parish-jumping. I worship on Sundays in the city, but access for me is difficult on anything other than a Sunday morning (I am no longer singing in choirs, so I don’t have to worry about weeknight rehearsals, mercifully). Where I live, bland and banal is the normal timbre of the music (some music ministries render it better than others), with very occasional daring. If the preaching were solid, I could offer it it up, but meh preaching combined with meh music in communitites in which I am outlier demographically is not something I seek out – I am not a masochist.

  21. I think that a major aspect of the issue here is a rather widespread tenuous sense of the importance of our own baptism, and the renewal of our baptismal promises. The neophytes are, in a sense, icons of each of us. In that sense, the vigil is not just for them, but for the whole church who has been journeying to this moment for the 40 days of Lent. This baptismal spirituality is sorely lacking.

    We can help people appreciate the Vigil. People, after all, do attend other events that are equally long. We must catechize about the tradition of vigiling in an “instant” world (and I do mean addressing the spirituality of our waiting), and be sure that the lectors make the readings come alive (rehearsals contribute significantly to this.) We also need to give people (little ones and elders alike) permission to doze off if they need to, heretical as that may sound. Others have commented on the importance of “big” symbols, and if any celebration calls for them, this is it. A burning bonfire that welcomes those who are arriving – and speaks to those driving by – if only that they ask, “Gosh, what’s happening at the Catholic Church tonight?” is significant. New fire that can set the world on fire, new stories mingled with old, new water, new Christians born of the font and re-newed Christians: this is the night when all creation is made new! This is the night for daring – as in the pastor of the Latino community who started the vigil at 11:00 or Fr. Bill Burke’s parish in Nova Scotia that started at 3:00 a.m. (there was a great article in the National Bulletin of Liturgy on that – sorry,I don’t have the reference handy). Those who prepare this celebration can’t think small or fearfully or apologize for “the length.” This is the night!

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