The Easter Vigil is observed by many churches that have a high liturgical tradition. In these churches, the Vigil is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day. As night gives way to day, it becomes the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.
The reading from Genesis 1 is the familiar account of creation in which God first brings light to darkness. In hearing this in the hours proceeding Easter, we are reminded that as Christ lay in the darkness of the tomb, it is the anticipation of God’s new creation that will occur with His resurrection.
The selections from Psalm 136 proclaim thanks to God. The breadth of this Psalm is notable. The God of all creation is at work from its heights to its depths. With gratitude, we can rest – and wake – assured that we too have a place in God’s very good creation.
The reading from Exodus 14 is a pillar of Israel’s identity as the people of God. Israel knows itself as the people whom God delivered from bondage in Egypt. We Christians are those who are both graciously included in God’s covenant family and who celebrate the decisive deliverance from bondage to sin and death achieved in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We have been freed. As Pope John Paul II said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”