The liturgical year culminates in tonight’s Easter Vigil, an extended service of preparation for Christ’s Resurrection. It begins with a Service of Light which starts outside the church where the priest lights the Easter candle saying: “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” The candle is then processed through the church (and usually lifted at three different intervals) by a priest or deacon singing: ‘Christ our light’ (Lumen Christi). The congregation sings in reply: ‘Thanks be to God’ (Deo gratias). Then the light from the Easter Candle is spread throughout the church as everyone lights their own candle. The candle symbolises ‘Christ, the Light of the World’. It is one of the most visually beautiful moments in the Church’s calendar. The Vigil continues with an extended Liturgy of the Word followed by a Liturgy of Baptism during which new members are baptised. The liturgy ends with a celebration of the Eucharist.
This is the time that those who have been following the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) in their own parishes over a number of months will be received into the Catholic Church. Around 90 of them from 32 parishes attended the Rite of Election at Brentwood Cathedral back in February. Their names were inscribed in the Book of the Elect and during the Rite, each was presented to the Bishop, supported by their sponsors, parish priests, catechists, family and friends.
In his homily on that occasion, Bishop Alan welcomed all present to the journey through Lent, “a season of grace”.
He went on to talk about his own journey earlier in the year: “I went to World Youth Day, joined by 700,000 young people, through Costa Rica then finally to Panama and a vigil on Sunday. It was a difficult journey to Panama – of the 30 nights, four were not spent in a bed! It was hot, humid and tropical – and we saw crocodiles! The highlight, in a field at 10 o’clock at night, was the arrival of the Holy Father. I felt complete unity with the Lord.”
He added: “Full Communion with Christ is that Christ never leaves us from the beginning through to the middle to the end. He loved us so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have a pioneer of our faith who helps our journey.”
At the Easter Vigil in Brentwood Cathedral tonight, Bishop Alan will baptise and confirm those joining the Church in the Cathedral parish, depending on whether they are catechumens – people who have not been baptised in a Christian church and are preparing for all three sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) – or candidates who have been baptised in another Christian denomination. They will all then receive the Eucharist for the first time.