The Easter Vigil is traditionally an extended religious service in the Catholic Church. Roman Catholics are accustomed to spending two hours, often longer, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The liturgy includes additional Scripture readings, along with the sacraments of initiation for new church members.
For Catholics of the western rite persuasion, who shudder at the thought of extended time in church on Holy Saturday, your Eastern rite neighbors, who trace their roots to Constantinople rather than Rome, have news for your: two hours are nothing.
I had the privilege of attending the April 14 celebration of Great and Holy Saturday, also known as the Paschal Vigil, at Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, Wis., about 50 miles south of Green Bay. The Byzantine monastery relocated to Wisconsin last fall from California. The small community of monks, led by their Abbot, Nicholas Zachariadis, has opened its doors to their Roman Catholic neighbors. Indeed, nearly half of those in attendance were Roman Catholics.
The Easter celebration began at 11 p.m. in the monastery’s modest chapel with Nocturns, a recitation of prayers, followed by an outdoor candlelight procession, Matins of Holy Pascha and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The service, highlighted by chanting and sung prayers, lasted about three hours. A 2 a.m. breakfast followed the Divine Liturgy.
After sharing in a festive meal, bidding farewell to the monks of Holy Resurrection and making the one-hour drive back to Green Bay, it was 4 a.m. Now that’s what I call a vigil.
Below is a photo slideshow of images from the Paschal Vigil.