We read as far back to Moses and the Israelites how keeping Vigil was a celebration of God’s victory and promise: “This was a night of vigil for the LORD, as he led them out of the land of Egypt; so on this same night all the Israelites must keep a vigil for the LORD throughout their generations” (Exodus 12:42). Keeping Vigil is a celebration of joy which lasts more than 24 hours. So now, the Church keeps Vigil for we will watch Christ rising from the dead …. in the midst of the darkness!
The events surrounding Jesus’ last days is known as Pascha (Hebrew word for Passover). He is the Paschal Lamb by whom all God’s children are freed from captivity. The early Church gathered in their homes and there they read Scripture and celebrated the Eucharist to commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry, Last Supper, betrayal, crucifixion, burial, and the Easter event.
In Fourth century, Pascha had expanded to a formalized Holy Week and the Great Fifty Days of rejoicing between Easter Day and Pentecost.By the 16th Century, the Reformation reduced the Vigil’s importance and all the weight of Easter joy was placed exclusively on Easter Sunday. The Vigil found its way back into the liturgical life after the Second Vatican Council. The Vigil once again become a standard celebration in Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches.
The celebration of Paschal joy is the celebration of passing from darkness to light, death to life, old to new. Christ paves the way!