Monday, April 17, 2017


Maybe it is a sign that I am on my way to being 64 years old and have almost 37 years of priesthood under my alb, but I am beginning to think that the Easter Vigil needs a make over! Of the three liturgies of the Easter Triduum, my favorite is Holy Thursday; I simply love it.

Good Friday is a bit stark and disjointed to me in terms of its abrupt entrance with prostration, collect without greeting or Let us pray, the long passion, the long intercession and the the unveiling and veneration of the cross, then Holy Communion and simple exit.

But the Easter Vigil takes the cake. Its full celebration is best done in a monastery or intentional community. I have celebrated the vigil with all the readings, but no more, no matter how much my younger parochial vicars will protest.

We had three Old Testament readings and the Epistle and Gospel of course.

But do we have to have all of that???? Can't we have a more family, less liturgical geeks 🤓 oriented Easter Vigil?


1. Allow it to be at the normal Vigil Mass time no matter how bright and sunny!

2. Light a torch in the church near the entrance and have the congregation comfortably turn towards the entrance of the church (as they do, btw, at funeral Masses for the blessing of the body) then bless the fire, the candle and begin a quick procession with the Lumen Christi chant. No candles for the congregation as these are a fire hazard and get wax on your new padded pews!!!!!! These candles should be anathema! Maybe little electric ones would suffice!

3. Use the short version of the Exultet.

4. Have one Old Testament reading with a short Gradual, not a long Psalm with refrain and an infinite number of verses but keep the prayer, followed by the Gloria, Collect and then the Epistle. But by all means maintain the three-fold Alleluia and Gospel!

5. Keep the homily brief or omit it altogether!

6. Only do baptisms, no receptions into the Church, those could be on Easter Sunday.

7. Do away with the double renunciation of Satan and profession of faith, one for those to be baptized and the other for the congregation.

8. Use the 2nd Eucharist prayer but have something in it for the newly baptized and the Roman Canon's acknowledgment of the Easter night/day.

All of this could be accomplished in a hour and a half rather than 2 and half to three hours.

I was psychologically exhausted a 8 PM when we began the Vigil outside and I could not get the taper to light from the fire so that I could light the candle and then get the congregation's candles lighted.



Dialogue said...

I'm surprising myself by saying this, but I actually agree with you.

If there's to be any sort of fire before lighting the Passover Candle, then I think it should be outside, but the simplest solution is just to light the Candle inside with a match and carry it in procession. I think the Candle's Exultet is the one thing that should remain as is, however.

Everything else could be like a usual Mass, but including the Initiation Sacraments for the unbaptized. I agree that previously baptized converts should become Catholic on another day, such as Maundy Thursday morning.

The new Mexican missal does include Easter inserts for EPII, so this is a possibility for our English missal.

As for the timing, I think we should at least give a nod to sundown, perhaps waiting until the sun begins to set. But whatever the timing, it should be consistent with the other Saturdays/Sundays of the year.

The radical side of me, which hardly even exists, would be satisfied if Good Friday could just be the Via Crucis at 3 pm, followed by Exposition and Benediction of the MBS. No need for Holy Communion. Adoration of the Cross should only occur if there is a relic of the True Cross.

Perhaps there are good reasons these rites fell out of favor with the faithful prior to the Liturgical Movement's naïve agenda.

Next, let's discuss replacing the Divine Office with the Holy Rosary, or at least reducing it to Lauds, Vespers and Compline.

Marc said...

I'd like to see traditional chapels return to the pre-1955 rites and service times. The Easter Vigil should take place on Holy Saturday morning as it did for centuries. I don't think that shortening the grandest liturgy of the year is the proper way to go, though. I think the Easter services should be somewhat exhausting -- they are certainly exhausting for families who are making the effort to assist at them. I imagine it's very exhausting for the clergy as well. But that exhaustion is something that the Lenten fast has prepared us to bear to some extent.

Anonymous said...

Oh okay. If it's more convenient just throw away 2000 years of tradition and just make stuff up because you know better.

Anonymous said...

We had an unusual start to ours here in Atlanta at 4465 Northside Drive---8 pm (the "scheduled" time for the start according to our weekly church bulletin) came and nothing happened---then came 8:05, *:10, and 8:15...what the heck was going on? Congregation starting to get fidegity---where there some soon to be new Church members missing" Did the Easter fire go out? I was thinking of heading out the door and FINALLY about 8:25 things got started...well at his homily, the priest (not our pastor) said that the delay was due to the missal...namely, the entire Easter vigil must be celebrated at night. Well, sunset in Atlanta Saturday was 8:09 (doubtless it is earlier in Savannah, being father east), and I guess it was not "dark enough" til about 8:25. Our pastor, recovering from heart surgery, was not there, but I suspect he got some feedback about the late start...we did not wrap up til 10:30 and the first Mass Easter morning was about 8 hours away.

Things could be tougher....Atlanta's Greek Orthodox cathedral had their Easter service scheduled for 11 pm that night-...I attended one year and it ran til 2:15 in the morning! Orthodox services are not known for their brevity!

A lot of parishes in the Episcopal Church do not have an Easter vigil, but some who do actually start early in the morning, before sunset (say 6 am), of course in darkness, and then at the end of the service (after the baptisms and confirmations), it is daylight, the resurrection.

Ryan Ellis said...

Dear God. Remind me to avoid your Protestant parish at the Triduum.

Gene said...

My, my...and how exhausted was our Lord and Saviour after His scourging and trudging up to Calvary bearing His Cross? It seems to me that a bit of exhaustion and discomfort is quite in order for everyone during the Easter an air-conditioned Church with music, a place to sit (well, there is that inconvenience of kneeling, but most people just kind of slide forward in the pew and hunker down), and, hey, you can leave early after you wolf down the Host you just manhandled and go eat a late dinner or have drinks and snacks. "Lord, we left all to follow thee."

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father, is this a delayed April Fools' post?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Not April fools but tongue in cheek! However I think if a Gradual replaced responsorial Psalms which we so many verses that would help! Normally, although I appreciate dispensations, I am a liturgical purist.

Anonymous said...

3. FAIL! As Fr. Z said. "The EXSULTET is one of the most spectacular moments of all the Church’s liturgical life. When it is sung well in Latin the Church is in her glory!"

4. FAIL! Only 3 or 4 Old Testament readings is a travesty. We heard this year the full 12 Old Testament prophecies of tradition--and not merely read perfunctorily but chanted in Latin in the proper tones--each followed by its own collect, 4 of them followed by graduals sung by the choir.

5. PASS! Amen to NO SERMON. Indeed, no sermon at any Mass where it serves no purpose, or (even worse) is merely a distraction (e.g., daily low Mass).

8. FAIL! The historically phony protestantized EP II should be abolished, and not just prohibited on Sundays. The Roman Canon should be required at least for Sundays and solemnities.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

What time was your Vigil? Isn't it in the morning of Holy Saturday?

Our Deacon chanted the Exsultet flawlessly!

Marc said...

There are very, very few parishes that have the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday morning. I'm personally not aware of any parishes that do this. None of the traditional priestly fraternities do this, as far as I'm aware.

I know there are many who wish Abp. Lefebvre had seen fit to go back to the pre-1955 Missal instead of opting for 1962, but he had his reasons. So now most of the traditional chapels of whatever affiliation have followed suit. Although, I understand that the Institute of Christ the King has a "hybrid" Holy Week with some pre-1955 elements. That doesn't include the proper timing of the services in the mornings, though.

Anonymous said...

Yes, our over-stuffed parish schedule for the Sacred Triduum necessitated the traditional Latin Easter Vigil being celebrated on Saturday morning. As it was for many centuries until the mid-1950s when (unknown to many today) the first of the liturgical changes leading to the Novus Ordo were initiated. (Some still alive can remember when no Mass was permitted to begin after noon.)

It actually works out better that way, certainly more leisurely. Gregory DiPippo mentioned in a NLM post a Vatican announcement circa 1930 of the schedule for the Sacred Triduum services for St. Peter's Basilica, beginning at 9 am all three days--Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Saturday morning. Of course, the term "vigil Mass" then referred to the Mass of the day preceding a feast, not the Mass of the feast "anticipated" by celebrating it the preceding evening.

rcg said...

The women of the Rosary Society removed all flowers from the altar of repose Friday night. They were returned noon on Saturday. The various personal vigils moved outside to the steps of the church about 9pm. The vigil formally started at 2200. Candel was scored and incence inserted. We processed in. Readings, litanies, all read/chanted. No homily.

Mass started just after midnight. Nice homily about what we learned about ourselves, sin, and the strength we get from God when we face challenges. Wrapped up about 0200 Sunday morning. Next Masses were 0800 and 1030. Power nap in the afternoon.

Dialogue said...

I don't take Father's post to be so much about avoiding priestly exhaustion as about avoiding liturgical elitism. At any rate, the one thing the Easter Vigil is not is a vigil: it does not last through the night.

Anonymous said...

You think that's bad Fr? Try being Orthodox. Our Paschal vigil started at 11pm and ended at was worth it because we had a massive parish-wide feast till about 4am. But I wouldn't change the length for anything, and I would like to think the Catholics have learned their lesson in changing the liturgy to suit their needs :)


John Nolan said...

The problem with the Easter Vigil is that if it is to have the desired impact, it requires a degree of solemnity which is beyond most Catholic parishes. A priest and deacon willing or able to sing their parts, and a small schola capable of delivering the chant may not seem an exorbitant demand, but a parish whose normal Sunday fare is a four-hymn sandwich is unlikely to possess even these.

The responsorial psalm is tedious to start with, and to have to suffer no fewer than nine of them is beyond human endurance. They can, of course, be replaced by a short period of silence. Better still, all seven of the prophecies can be followed by the canticles found in the Roman Gradual. They are all in the same mode (VIII), the melodies are similar, and if they are only sung up to the first double bar they are not too long. They are Tracts rather than Graduals, but in the 1970 rite are referred to as 'cantica'.

One cantor is required to intone the triple Alleluia; two are required for the Litany. (For added solemnity they may wear copes over choir dress, although they are laymen). In the absence of a deacon, a lay cantor may sing the Exsultet. The chants for the Easter Vigil are not that difficult, and no-one would object to (say) the Alleluia verse 'Confitemini' being sung in psalm tone.

This is the greatest Solemnity of the year. It is not a Saturday evening Mass for the benefit of those who can't be bothered to turn up on Sunday morning.

Anonymous said...

First, I like the Easter vigil Mass. IMHO, It is the absolute best Mass of the year. I also like that parishioners take such an active part in the ceremony, especially the readings. One church I attended even had a fire pit built outside the Church just for the vigil Mass. The Triduum Mass I fear the most is Holy Thursday and its varied bathing (foot washing) ceremonies. I am confused when people are mentioning the vigil (pre 1955) taking place Holy Saturday morning. Do they mean really Easter Sunday before dawn instead?

Marc said...

The Easter Vigil Mass took place on Holy Saturday morning for centuries... until the late 1950's.

Vigil Masses are the masses said on the day before Feasts. If you're curious, search a site called New Liturgical Movement for copious articles on this and all the 1955 Holy Week changes. It's an interesting topic.

Dialogue said...

John Nolan,

You hit the nail on its head. The Easter Vigil should be reserved to cathedrals and monasteries, where it could be celebrated with full solemnity with the participation of those faithful with heightened liturgical sensibilities. In dioceses with auxiliary bishops, additional churches could be assigned an episcopal celebrant for the Vigil. Still other churches and oratories could be given permission for the Vigil, but only as an exception.

Anonymous said...

"The Easter Vigil should be reserved to cathedrals and monasteries, where it could be celebrated with full solemnity with the participation of those faithful with heightened liturgical sensibilities."

With the respect that your comments have long engendered, Dialogue, I would have to dissent from this one. In our smallish inner city parish--where the regular Sunday EF Missa Cantata is always celebrated with all the usual smells and bells, frequent sacred polyphony, ordinary and propers chanted by an excellent schola--the complete Sacred Triduum (Holy Saturday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) was celebrated last week with "full solemnity", every word of the ancient rites chanted in the proper tones by either the schola or one of the three priests, including (for instance) all twelve traditional Old Testament prophecies and their twelve collects by the priests, their four tracts by the schola. We had three different MC's for the three services, each having prepared to direct the ceremonial for his with proper care.

So perhaps I would replace your dictum with something like . . . Those who cannot do it right, should not do it at all. Which I would apply to the EF Mass itself. Of course, it would futile to apply this restriction to the OF Mass, since so few Novus Ordo priests are prepared to "do it right".

rcg said...

Our parish does all the things John describes. Notwithstanding criticisms of quality in execution doing all of those things is attainable for most parishes. It is simply a matter of applying the energy and being properly focused.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason I stopped coming here.

Dialogue said...


What's the reason you keep coming back?