This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel,
out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.
This is the night, when all who believe in Christ
are delivered from the gloom of sin,
and are restored to grace and holiness of life.
This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell,
and rose victorious from the grave.
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At the Great Vigil of Easter tonight, we will renew our Baptismal Vows (BCP 292) in much the same fashion as early catechumens “handed back the creed” before their baptism in a series of questions and answers with the bishop, who had taught them in a series of sermons in the weeks leading up to Easter.
After the vigil readings and their questioning, the catechumens were led to the baptismal pool and immersed three times “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” They were then anointed with oil, clothed in a garment of white linen, and brought back into the church to receive communion for the first time. According to Robert Louis Wilken, “At their first Eucharist they received a cup of milk and honey, and during Easter Week they attended services in their white garments” (Spirit of Early Christian Thought 39).
That same spirit of joy permeates both the Eucharist and the Daily Office not just tonight and tomorrow, but throughout the Great 50 Days of Easter.
Not only do we adorn the Eucharist with white vestments and altar hangings, we also sing Alleluias throughout the service.
Not only do we begin and end the Office with Alleluias, we also say the Invitatory canticle “Christ our Passover” (BCP 83) every morning, and we “hand back the creed” — the Apostles’ Creed — as a daily reminder of our dying and rising with Christ and our baptismal unity with the apostles.
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How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight,
and sin is washed away.
It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn.
It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.
How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined,
and we are reconciled to God.