Mormon Lectionary Project: The Great Vigil of Easter

Many Christian traditions celebrate an Easter Vigil. The version I have experienced is the Episcopal one, from the Book of Common Prayer. I’m not sure I have a lot to say about it, except that it’s beautiful, and that it seems familiar to me. It reminds me of the temple endowment in many ways–it is a retelling, recreation of salvific history from Creation to Fall to Atonement to Exaltation:

Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how
he saved his people in ages past; and let us pray that our God
will bring each of us to the fullness of redemption.


One of my favorites of the sermons I’ve been able to publish in Dialogue is an Easter Vigil sermon; I think it gets at both what might seem familiar to Mormons and what might be strangely, newly lovely in it.Mostly, though, I wish I could give you a taste of it, sit in the dark and hear the words of scripture and beautiful music together. Since I can’t quite figure out how to make that work (maybe a new project for Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir?), I’m inserting some of my favorite music into the text from the Book of Common Prayer. For the sake of not making you scroll down interminably, I’ll trust you to look up the scriptures yourselves…


The Great Vigil of Easter

 The Lighting of the Paschal Candle

In the darkness, fire is kindled; after which the Celebrant may address the
people in these or similar words:

Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our
Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites
her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in
vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which,
by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share
in his victory over death.

The Celebrant may say the following prayer:

Let us pray.

O God, through your Son you have bestowed upon your
people the brightness of your light: Sanctify this new fire, and
grant that in this Paschal feast we may so burn with heavenly
desires, that with pure minds we may attain to the festival of
everlasting light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Paschal Candle is then lighted from the newly kindled fire, and the
Deacon (the Celebrant if there is no deacon) bearing the Candle, leads the
procession to the chancel, pausing three times and singing or saying

             The light of Christ.
People      Thanks be to God.


If candles have been distributed to members of the congregation, they are
lighted from the Paschal Candle at this time. Other candles and lamps in
the church, except for those at the Altar, may also be lighted.


The Paschal Candle is placed in its stand.


Then the Deacon, or other person appointed, standing near the Candle,
sings or says the Exsultet, as follows


Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and let your trumpets shout Salvation
for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in radiant light,
resound with the praises of your people.

   All you who stand near this marvelous and holy flame,
pray with me to God the Almighty
for the grace to sing the worthy praise of this great light;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

              The Lord be with you.
Answer      And also with you.
Deacon      Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
Answer      It is right to give him thanks and praise.

(I’ve never heard it live in Korean, but I love this priest’s voice.)


It is truly right and good, always and everywhere, with our whole heart and mind and voice, to praise you, the invisible, almighty, and eternal God, and your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who at the feast of the Passover paid for us the debt of Adam’s sin, and by his blood delivered your faithful people.

This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.

This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.

This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.

   How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your
mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you
gave a Son.

   How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and
sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy
to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings
peace and concord.

   How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined
and man is reconciled to God.

Holy Father, accept our evening sacrifice, the offering of this
candle in your honor. May it shine continually to drive away
all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no
setting, find it ever burning–he who gives his light to all
creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

It is customary that the Paschal Candle burn at all services from
Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost.

The Liturgy of the Word

The Celebrant may introduce the Scripture readings in these or similar

Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how
he saved his people in ages past; and let us pray that our God
will bring each of us to the fullness of redemption.

At least two of the following Lessons are read, of which one is always the
Lesson from Exodus. After each Lesson, the Psalm or Canticle listed, or
some other suitable psalm, canticle, or hymn may be sung. A period of
silence may be kept; and the Collect provided, or some other suitable
Collect, may be said.

The story of Creation

Genesis 1:1–2:2

Psalm 33:1-11, or Psalm 36:5-10

Let us pray.

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully
restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may
share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our
humanity, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Flood
Genesis 7:1-5,     11-18;     8:8-18;       9:8-13

Psalm 46

Let us pray.
    (Silence)  Almighty God, you have placed in the skies the sign of your covenant with all living things: Grant that we, who are saved through water and the Spirit, may worthily offer to you our sacrifice of thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(This setting of the psalm is super cheesy and would never make it into a snooty Episcopal service, but I still kind of love it from high school chorus. Shhhhh!


Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac
Genesis 22:1-18


Psalm 33:12-22, or Psalm 16


Let us pray.


God and Father of all believers, for the glory of your Name
multiply, by the grace of the Paschal sacrament, the number
of your children; that your Church may rejoice to see fulfilled
your promise to our father Abraham; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.


Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea
Exodus 14:10–15:1

Canticle 8, The Song of Moses

Let us pray.

O God, whose wonderful deeds of old shine forth even to
our own day, you once delivered by the power of your mighty
arm your chosen people from slavery under Pharaoh, to be a
sign for us of the salvation of all nations by the water of
Baptism: Grant that all the peoples of the earth may be
numbered among the offspring of Abraham, and rejoice in
the inheritance of Israel; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God’s Presence in a renewed Israel
Isaiah 4:2-6

Psalm 122

Let us pray.     (Silence)

O God, you led your ancient people by a pillar of cloud by day
and a pillar of fire by night: Grant that we, who serve you
now on earth, may come to the joy of that heavenly Jerusalem,
where all tears are wiped away and where your saints for ever
sing your praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Salvation offered freely to all

Isaiah 55:1-11

Canticle 9, The First Song of Isaiah, or Psalm 42:1-7

Let us pray.

O God, you have created all things by the power of your
Word, and you renew the earth by your Spirit: Give now the
water of life to those who thirst for you, that they may bring
forth abundant fruit in your glorious kingdom; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

A new heart and a new spirit

Ezekiel 36:24-28

Psalm 42:1-7, or Canticle 9, The First Song of Isaiah

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who are reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The valley of dry bones
Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 30, or Psalm 143

(This wouldn’t make it into an Episcopal service either, probably, but it’s the coolest setting of Psalm 30 I know of…)

Let us pray.

Almighty God, by the Passover of your Son you have brought
us out of sin into righteousness and out of death into life:
Grant to those who are sealed by your Holy Spirit the will
and the power to proclaim you to all the world; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.


The gathering of God’s people
Zephaniah 3:12-20

Psalm 98, or Psalm 126

Let us pray.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.


Holy Baptism (beginning with the Presentation of the Candidates,
page 305, and concluding with the reception of the newly baptized) may
be administered here or after the Gospel. Confirmation may also be

In the absence of candidates for Baptism or Confirmation, the
Celebrant leads the people in the Renewal of Baptismal Vows, either here
or after the Gospel.

The Celebrant may first address the people in these or similar words, all

Through the Paschal mystery, dear friends, we are buried
with Christ by Baptism into his death, and raised with him to
newness of life. I call upon you, therefore, now that our
Lenten observance is ended, to renew the solemn promises
and vows of Holy Baptism, by which we once renounced
Satan and all his works, and promised to serve God faithfully
in his holy Catholic Church.


The Renewal of Baptismal Vows

  Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil and
renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?
People      I do.

Celebrant  Do you believe in God the Father?
People        I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People        I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant  Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People        I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Celebrant  Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and
fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people,
and respect the dignity of every human being?
People        I will, with God’s help.

The Celebrant concludes the Renewal of Vows as follows

May Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and
bestowed upon us the forgiveness of sins, keep us in eternal
life by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


At the Eucharist

The candles at the Altar may now be lighted from the Paschal Candle.

One of the following Canticles is then sung. Immediately before the
Canticle the Celebrant may say to the people

             Alleluia. Christ is risen.
People      The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

The Canticles

Gloria in excelsis
Te Deum laudamus
Pascha nostrum

The Celebrant then says

             The Lord be with you.
People      And also with you.
Celebrant Let us pray.


Almighty God, who for our redemption gave your only-
begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious
resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant
us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him
in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son
our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the
glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that
Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we,
being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in
sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.

Epistle     Romans 6:3-11

“Alleluia” may be sung and repeated.

Psalm 114, or some other suitable psalm or a hymn may be sung.


Gospel     Matthew 28:1-10


     Alleluia. Christ is risen.
People      The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.




  1. Alleluia, indeed. Thank you for this post, Kristine. It is uplifting beyond words.

  2. Kristine,

    Thank you for your beautiful post. It helped me worship Him and remember Him this Easter in a way that I was craving deeply. I participated in the Dawn Eucharist and had my small candle lit by the Bishop of London and the Paschal candle several years ago at St. Paul’s Cathedral and it is an experience I will never forget. It was cold, dark and misty, and about forty of us huddled together on the steps until the priests opened the mammoth central doors and the entirety of the cathedral was lit by the single Paschal candle. What a beautiful and rich meaningful tradition of celebrating the Lord’s resurrection. Thank you for helping me to remember and understand that ceremony better and for the way it strengthened my testimony of Jesus Christ today.

  3. Great selections! I love that Sicut cervus made it in, in its proper liturgical context.

  4. Not sure how well Parry would fit in at a vigil, but it’s a classic.

  5. Kristine says:

    Yeah, Parry would be pretty weird right there :)

  6. Here’s a nice partial psalm 122 setting we did for a musical number years ago. If you have a good soprano, the choral section is short and easy to learn:

  7. melodynew says:

    Thank you for taking time to collect and compile these remarkable pieces. For all of this. It’s a lovely gift.

    And this: “. . .that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.”

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