The Mother of All Vigils: the Use of the Ancient Easter Vigil in 21st Century Lutheran Churches
The Great Easter Vigil is certainly the most majestic and beautifully symbolic service in all of Christendom. With roots that trace back to the early second century, the Great Vigil is the most ancient of genuinely Christian celebrations. Its solemnity is unmistakable. Its reverence is undeniable. The service begins in the dark solemnity of Good Friday. It ends in the dawning light of Easter with triumphant shouts of “Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” For all its historicity and majesty, reverence and symbolism, the Vigil fell into disuse for one thousand years in the Western Church. It was not until the 1950’s that the Great Easter Vigil was rediscovered. From then on, it slowly made its way into Christian churches, including a select few of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). This thesis will examine the history and development of the Great Easter Vigil, give a detailed explanation of the service, and provide ideas to implement this service in a typical parish setting. When celebrated, the Great Easter Vigil will heighten the resurrection celebration in twenty-first century WELS Churches.