Maundy Thursday: Service of Word & Sacrament
Holy Saturday: Vigil of Easter
A vigil is a service of Scripture readings and prayers in which believers vigilantly and eagerly wait and watch for the celebration of the Savior’s deliverance. The Easter Vigil is the most well-known and historic of the Church’s vigils. In fact, in its general structure, it is one of the most ancient services of the Christian Church. Early records indicate that it may have been celebrated in Jerusalem already by the second century, and from there it soon spread to the rest of the church.
From its beginnings, the Easter Vigil was closely connected to Holy Baptism. In the pagan world, a conversion to Christianity meant making a clean break from one’s former lifestyle. It also meant facing difficult times, perhaps even death. The instruction of adults was, therefore, intensive and thorough, practical as well as intellectual. The instruction intensified during the season of Lent, as catechumens pondered not only the Savior’s battle with evil, but also their own battle with Satan and his forces. At the Easter Vigil converts were baptized, confirmed, and received their first communion.
The Easter Vigil consists of four parts: the Service of Light, the Service of Lessons, the Service of Baptism, and the Service of Holy Communion:
The enormous significance on Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection has always been the central focus of Christian worship. Prior to the fourth century, Easter Day itself included all three emphases, but thereafter they were distributed over three days of special observance, which St. Augustine of Hippo called “the most holy triduum (“three days”) of the crucified, buried, and risen Lord.” These days have long been understood as the climax of the church’s year. We hope you notice the close connection between the three services of Maundy Thursday (Institution of the Lord’s Supper), Good Friday (Christ’s death), and Holy Saturday, known as the Vigil of Easter (Christ buried in the tomb). Each of these services connects, one into another. For this reason, all three services are included in this folder. This is also the reason that the service this evening, as well as tomorrow evening, does not include a blessing. That blessing will come at the end of the third service—Easter Vigil—which we will celebrate at sunrise on Easter morning.