Saturday, April 7, 2007
The Easter Vigil
On the night before the mass of the Resurrection of Our Lord, the church historically observed a vigil service at which the newly catechized were baptized. Lutheran Worship made an effort to restore this ancient practice to the LCMS, at least through its agenda rite in the early 80's. I experienced my first vigil at my home church in Wausau, Wisconsin not long before my graduation from the seminary in 1987. It was introduced by Dr. John Brunner, who is now president of the Eastern District. He was also the first to wear a chasuble in that parish, as I remember.
I did not participate in another vigil until my last parish in Traverse City, Michigan, another larger church. Dr. Charles Gieschen was the senior pastor of that parish who not only taught me again how to do the liturgy (according to Harry Krieger specifications!), but opened to me a rich liturgical heritage in a beautiful church edifice. Processing into a darkened sanctuary, led by the newly lit Pascal Candle, I can still hear the chant: "The light of Christ!" as it was repeated all the way to the altar. We were not always successful in arranging to have children to be baptized, but the readings and emphasis of the service was still on this blessed sacrament, which has such close and intimate ties to the Resurrection.
The historic shape of the baptismal font reveals this in itself. With eight sides it brings us again to the new creation. Here what was dead in sin is made new again in the risen Christ. The image lost in the Fall is being restored again in the person of God's Son in whom our lives are hid. Creation's decline into chaos and destruction and death is reversed in the new day of re-creation in Christ, the first fruits of all who will rise from the dead on the last day when He returns again in glory in the company of the angelic hosts.
As we anticipate the glorious celebration of his resurrection tomorrow, it is good to remember how that resurrection is made real in our own baptisms. For here we were buried with Christ unto death, but raised again to newness of life. Living out our baptisms we die daily to sin through repentance, and we rise victorious in Christ as forgiven and restored children of the Father.
A blessed vigil to all.