We welcome you to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and to this service, which concludes the “Great Three Days” (in Latin, Triduum sacrum).
This is simply the most important liturgy of the entire year. St. Augustine, in the fourth century, said that this rite is so central that all other celebrations of the Eucharist can be said to be the repeatable parts of this rite. This is the Passover of the Lord, the paschal feast of the people of God. We gather in the same darkened church which was stripped, silent, bereft of fire and water from the end of Good Friday. Suddenly, light appears in a flash as new fire is kindled. From this fire the celebrant lights the Paschal Candle. “The Light of Christ,” is sung as the Paschal Candle is brought into the darkened church, and the people respond, “Thanks be to God” . Then, in candlelight, we hear the great hymn of Easter praise, the Exsultet (which means “Rejoice!”).
We hear the history of salvation in readings from the Hebrew Scriptures. Many of the readings touch on the themes of creation, water, and the spirit by which the people of God gain their identity, and somehow, through hearing these sacred stories, we too find our identity deep within them.
As the Celebrant says, “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” the ancient paschal greeting, the first
Eucharist of Easter begins. The Great Paschal Alleluia is sung and this is the first alleluia in the liturgy since the Feast of the Transfiguration at the end of the season of Epiphany. The altar candles are lit, the bells are rung, and the liturgy moves into its final segment, the celebration of the first Eucharist of Easter. Light has broken through the darkness and, in a flash of recognition, we know the Risen Lord.
The liturgy ends with the dismissal, concluding the sacred Triduum, the three holy days. What we have celebrated in Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter is a single continual liturgy which proclaims, reenacts, and displays the mystery of our redemption through Jesus our risen Lord.
We are blessed with the celebration of a baptism this evening and are grateful for your presence and participation in our service on this most holy night.