THE EASTER VIGIL (A, B, C) Lectionary # 41

As Ash Wednesday gave a penitential tone to all of Lent, so the Vigil gives an initiatory tone to the Easter celebration. Its readings and rituals are best understood in communities that are initiating new adult members. For music suggestions, see Easter Day and other suggestions for the Easter Season. For music for the initiation rites, see the suggestions for the sprinkling rite on Easter Day and the suggestions for the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, Lectionary #21.

The readings of the Vigil tell the story of salvation especially as it relates to water. Thus the first reading (Genesis 1:1–2:2) tells of creation as it emerges from “the waters,” and the psalm (Ps 104) sings of God's care for creation through water. The third reading (Exodus 14:15–15:1, a required reading) tells of salvation from slavery through the waters of the sea, and it is followed by the “Song of Moses and Miriam” (Exodus 15:1-18) which praises God as the victor who hurled Pharaoh’s chariots and army “into the sea.” Rejoice in Isaiah's invitation to “come to the water” in the fifth reading (Isaiah 55:1-11) and in its psalm (Isaiah 12), inviting us to “draw water at the fountain of salvation.” Think about Israel's use of water in purification rituals as described in the seventh reading (Ezekiel 36:16-28) and the “deer longing for running streams” in its psalm (Ps 42). All of these readings, of course, come to bear on the Christian understanding of baptism (Romans 6:3-11).

Other Vigil readings speak about relationships that help us understand God's relationship to us: a father and son (Genesis 22:1-18), a husband and wife (Isaiah 54:5-14), the connection that wise people feel to Wisdom and Israel feels to the Torah as the incarnation of divine wisdom (Baruch 3:9-15, 32–4:4) and, in the Gospel, the relationship between the risen Christ and the women who are first witnesses of the resurrection (Mark 16:1-7).

Psalm (117) 118
See the suggestions for Easter Day.