Easter Vigil is the first official celebration of the Easter Day, the resurrection of Jesus. It usually takes place in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter morning. The Easter Vigil is also known as the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter. Traditionally, the Easter Vigil service begins with prayers at midnight, after which all the lights of the church are extinguished except the candles at the altar and the ones held by those serving at the altar. The veil concealing the sanctuary from the congregation is removed. The chief celebrant stands in the center of the sanctuary, holding a cross wrapped in a red embroidered cloth.
This is the same cross which was buried in a small coffin box behind the altar, during Good Friday service, to commemorate the burial. Then, the chief celebrant makes the announcement to the congregation, regarding the resurrection of Jesus. This is followed by Easter Procession, wherein the entire congregation along with the celebrants and the altar servers participate by holding candles. The cross wrapped in red cloth is carried in the procession around the church. Subsequently, the chief celebrant blesses the four directions with the Cross.
After this, the Kiss of Peace is given by the chief celebrant, which is passed onto the congregation, twice. This is followed by conducting Prayers of Morning and the Holy Qurbana. As Easter marks the end of Lent season, special prayers are also made. At the end of the service, the congregation touches the Holy Cross with their foreheads to seek the blessings of the Lord. From Easter to the Feast of Ascension, the Easter Cross is placed on a stand inside the sanctuary, the cloth covering which is kissed by the faithful while entering or leaving the church.
Easter Vigil is the first official celebration of resurrection of Jesus. Know more about Catholic Easter vigil mass and service.