Holy Saturday, marking the time our crucified Saviour lay in the tomb, is quiet, during the day. But come sundown the first service of Easter may be celebrated. Resplendent with ritual, glorious music, clouds of incense(in some churches) and sacrament, It is called the Great Vigil.(Book of Alternative Services p.322) When observed, it has four parts, the Service of Light, the Liturgy of the Word, Baptism or the renewal of Baptism vows and the Holy Eucharist. The Service of Light begins in the darkness with kindling a small fire(outside the church, for insurance reasons!) Then, in procession, the paschal candle is lifted high above the congregation and we join in singing, three times, “The light of Christ. Thanks be to God”. The majestic ancient hymn, the Exsultet is then sung: Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!…
The Liturgy of the Word focuses on our salvation history as recorded in the Hebrew scriptures, with prayers following each reading and the Collect of the Day. After a homily, the rite of Holy Baptism, or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows is celebrated. “Dear friends, through the paschal mystery we have been buried with Christ in baptism so that we may rise with him to a new life, Now that our Lenten observance is ended, let us renew the promises we made in baptism, when we rejected Satan and all his works, and promised to serve God faithfully in his holy catholic Church.” And then, in ‘normal’ times, the first Easter Eucharist is celebrated.
When we remember that the 40 days of Lent were set apart, not simply for the faithful to repent and observe, but for catechumens to prepare for their Baptism on Holy Saturday, the significance of renewing our own vows is heightened. To ‘renew your commitment to Jesus Christ’ and ‘continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship’, ‘proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ’ and the other baptismal promises, this is how we renew our life in the paschal mystery. This is how we, as the Body of Christ, the Church, “Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection and share in His eternal priesthood.”
Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil?
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Saviour?
Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Do your promise to obey him as your Lord?
Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ your Son
may live in the power of his resurrection and look for him to come again in
glory; who lives and reigns now and forever. Amen
Book of Alternative Services p. 156