This Most Holy Night
March 2008 Pastor's Newsletter Article
Dear Friends in Christ, on this most holy night, when our Lord Jesus passed from death to life, the Church invites her children throughout the world to come together in vigil and prayer. This is the Passover of the Lord. [Easter Vigil: Holy Saturday Liturgy]
The Triduum (Latin for three days) worship service takes place during the three most holy days in our liturgical church calendar: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Maundy Thursday takes its name from the new commandment (Latin: maundatum novum) Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper, that they should love one another as he loved them, even to the point of being willing to die for one another. Good Friday is called good because on that day our Savior gave the greatest gift of all when he was willing to die on our behalf. But it is Holy Saturday - and the Easter Vigil - that most deeply stirs my soul each year. On Holy Saturday the church proclaims that Jesus has indeed "passed from death to life" and grants us victory over death.
At Saint Peter, our custom is to begin outside the east entrance to our facility. As in ancient days, we kindle fire outdoors, light tapers, and process inside (to the Fellowship Hall) as worship begins with a series of readings that summarize for us the history of God's saving grace. At the completion of these readings, the Crucifer leads us to the Narthex, for the celebration of Holy Baptism. This year, at least two young people will become members of the Christian church through the waters of their baptism at our Easter Vigil - the oldest baptismal festival in the church's history. Following that baptismal ceremony, we decorate the Worship Center for Easter (which is still shrouded in darkness). When all is ready the lights come up, bells sound, the organ roars, and the people of God sing:
Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly king, almighty God and Father; We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; Have mercy on us.
With those words our Lenten journey of repentance gives way to the joyful celebration of Jesus' resurrection. A new season has begun. God's people have made the transition from Lent to Easter; from repentance to joy; from death to new life. We gather around the table and receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The service concludes with familiar words: "Go in peace. Serve the Lord. Thanks be to God." And indeed we do.
The Easter Vigil is one of the most ancient, and for my money one of the most inspiring worship services of the year. If you have never participated in one, I encourage you to give it a try this year. As we move together through the darkness into the light of Christ, our hearts are touched, our souls are fed, and our celebration of the Easter Good News of resurrection is strengthened.
May your observance of Lent, and your participation in the Holy Week liturgies, allow the power of the resurrection to stir your soul this Easter season.
God's peace to you all,