During the season of Lent, I am leading a group study on baptism and the triduum at the Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy in New York City. We meet on Wednesday nights in English and Thursday nights in Spanish. I am only posting the English handouts on the blog, but can provide Spanish translations on request.
Week 4: Wednesday, April 2
New Life Dawns: Easter Vigil
“What we gather to celebrate in the Easter Vigil is not a fond reminiscence, but a present reality. We gather to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ, principally in the baptism of new members, but also in the renewal of all the baptized.”
Story: An early account of the Easter Vigil according to Hippolytus (A.D. 215)
“The candidates for baptism fast on Friday and Saturday; others fast with them on both days if they are able, or on Saturday if ill or pregnant. Saturday night is spent in vigil, listening to readings and instructions. At cockcrow the baptismal water is blessed, a prayer of thanksgiving is said over the “oil of thanksgiving” (chrism), and an exorcism said over the “oil of exorcism.” The candidates renounce Satan, his servants, and his works, then are anointed with the oil of exorcism. They are baptized, assenting to a baptismal formula which is a profession of faith, the basis for the “Apostles’ Creed.” When they emerge from the water they are anointed with the oil of thanksgiving in the Name of Jesus the Christ (the Anointed One). They are then led into the assembly where the bishop says a prayer with laying on of hands, completes the anointing, and signs each on the forehead. The newly baptized participate then in the prayers of the people, the exchange of the peace, and the Eucharist. On this occasion they receive water (an internal baptism), and milk and honey (the food of babies, the Promised Land) as well as the elements of bread and wine.”
- What symbols do we read about in the above passage?
- What do symbols do? What do they mean?
- Our Prayer Book states: “The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” What does this statement say about the symbols we’ve named?
“In the Great Vigil of Easter we celebrate and make present (anamnesis) the pivotal events of the Old and New Testament heritage, the Passover of the Hebrews from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land, the Passover of our Lord Jesus Christ from death, and our own Passover from the bondage of sin and death to the glorious liberty of new life in Christ Jesus.”
- What are we making present? What are we making real?
- How do your answers this week compare to your answers from Week 1?
- Ponder what it is we are participating in, and be prepared to share your stories when we gather together next week.
Jeffrey D. Lee, Opening the Prayer Book (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1999), 91.
Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary On the American Prayer Book (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1995), 240.
Church Publishing, Book of Common Prayer Chapel Edition: Red Hardcover (Unknown: CHURCH PUBLISHING INC, 1979), 857.
Hatchett, Commentary On the American Prayer Book, 242-3.