The Easter Vigil is a service that comes out of the sacramental traditions of the church, what is usually termed catholic in the Western church. This year’s Vigil, as celebrated by The Worship Society of St. Polycarp, lasted about an hour before worshipers processed into the banqueting hall for the celebration of the First Eucharist of Easter. If you examine the service as outlined in part two of this series on “Easter thinking,” you should be struck by something different from the norm: Some 27 individuals took a leadership role in the prayers, blessings, the Exsultet, songs, chanting, introductions to the scripture, scripture and the telling of sacred stories, and so on. This included a presiding bishop, two priests, and two deacons, each of whom presided over the parts of the service traditionally designated for their leadership. In addition, there were censors and acolytes, and everyone held candles against the darkness.
Obviously, participation was considered key, engaging far more people directly in the conduct and action of the worship than has become normative. There are profound theological, as well as cultural, reasons for this increased level of participation. Continue reading