The Easter Vigil Mass takes place late
Holy Saturday evening. This Mass is distinctive because the liturgy is
centered around fire and water. The Service of Light begins with the lighting
of a bonfire at the rear entrance to the church. The Vigil, a solemn and
overwhelming Mass, begins in the dark of night serving as a Christian passover
as Jesus passed from death to life. It consists of four parts:
a) The Service of Light (Obrzed Swiatla)
b) The Liturgy of the Word (Liturgia Slowa)
c) The Liturgy of Baptism (Liturgia Chrzcielna)
d) The Liturgy of the Eucharist (Liturgia Eucharystyczna)
The Service of Light (Obrzed Swiatla) dramatically
emphasizes the darkness of the world without God (experienced on Good Friday)
and the shocking brilliance of the Resurrection. It begins with all lights
in the church extinguished. The bonfire (the "new fire") is then blessed.
It symbolizes hope in the darkness.
* See the Easter Vigil Fire
The Paschal candle is lit
from the blessed fire. The candle is then prepared with ancient symbols:
the cross, the Alpha and Omega, and the year. Grains of incense are inserted
into this design symbolizing the wounds of Christ's Passion.
* See the Blessing of the Candle
The Candle is then carried into the dark church
in procession. A priest or cantor's voice rings out of the darkness in
a repeated chant: "Swiatlo Chrystusa," (Christ our light)
to which the faithful reply, "Bogu niech beda dzieki" (Thanks
be to God.) (As the procession moves forward, the Paschal candle may be
used to light individual candles held by the congregation.)
* View the Procession of the Paschal Candle
The Procession is followed by the beautiful song/chant,
the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation or Oredzie Paschalne).
Sung by a priest, deacon, or cantor, this ancient song-poem begins "Weselcie
sie juz, zastepy Aniolow w niebie!...Raduj sie, Kosciele Swiety, Matko
nasza!" ("Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels...O Mother
Church! Exult in glory!") The songs continues to name the night ("Jest
to ta sama noc..." This is the night...) dispelled by the Morning
The Liturgy of the Word (Liturgia
Slowa) then begins. As this is the ultimate Vigil, nine readings
are provided, seven from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament
(the Epistle and the Gospel). The Old Testament emphasis recalls how God's
people have been saved throughout history. Each reading is followed by
a Responsorial Psalm (Psalm Responsoryjny) and an intention
(Modlitwa). After the Gospel and Homily, the Mass moves on
to the Liturgy of Baptism.
The Liturgy of Baptism (Liturgia Chrzcielna),
in which children and adults may be Baptized and brought into the church
community, begins with singing/chanting the Litany (Litanie)
of the Saints. This litany invokes the patrons who will guide the newly
baptized. The Priest then blesses the Baptismal Water (Poswiecenie
Wody Chrzcielnej), culminating as the Easter candle is three times
lowered into the water, symbolizing the descent into death and rising into
new life. The candidates (or their sponsors) then make their Baptismal
promises, followed by the Sacrament of Baptism.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist (Liturgia Eucharystyczna)
which takes place in every Mass is especially significant at this paschal
sacrifice. After Holy Communion, the deacon or priest sings/chants "Idzcie
ofiara spelniona, alleluja, alleluja" (The Mass is ended, go in peace.
Alleluia, Alleluia.), to which the congregation replies, "Bogu niech beda
dzieki, alleluja, alleluja" (Thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia.) These
final exclamations proclaim the Easter message.
Polish Catholics, unlike American counterparts,
may follow this Vigil Mass with a Resurrection Procession (Procesja
Rezurekcyjna) of the Blessed Sacrament,
similar to that of Easter Morning (Rezurekcja).