Sacrifice: The Easter Vigil, Part I

by | Apr 2, 2024 | Church, Liturgy, Prayer, Teachings, Uncategorized

The Catholic tradition of the Easter Vigil tells the full story of Christ’s redeeming love, starting with sacrifice.

Sacrifice has happened and our salvation given!!  Happy Easter week! As it is the octave of Easter, now is the perfect time to reflect on what we just celebrated. Yes, I’m sure Sunday featured eggs, baskets and bunnies. Hopefully we all went to Mass! But Holy Saturday Night is the crown jewel of the Easter celebration.

Holy Saturday is the night of the Easter Vigil. “Vigil” means to keep watch. We keep watch for Christ’s resurrection the night before He conquers death. The Easter Vigil concludes the Triduum, the three nights of Christ’s Passover. Holy Thursday is the night He gave us the Eucharist and kept His own vigil, preparing for His sacrifice. Good Friday is the day He died on the cross. Holy Saturday is our vigil of His resurrection.

If you’ve never been to the Easter Vigil, I highly recommend it when the opportune year arises. It is the longest Mass of the year (not usually a good way to sell someone on it) but it is the most sacred. It begins in darkness, often outside. The priest sets the flame symbolizing the pillar of fire God used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The congregation then lights their own candles from the flame, illuminating the way into the church. The Israelites became the Jews, and the Jews became the first Catholics. We also hold the light of God and walk into the new Church.

What follows are seven readings from the Old Testament, telling the full story of Christ’s redeeming love. The first two describe the creation of the world, and the sacrifice required to save it.

Reading 1: Genesis 1:1—2:2.

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland. And darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

We’ve all heard the creation story. God created light, sky, earth, water, day and night, and all living creatures. He saw that His work was good. What He created was inherently good. There was no flaw in His earth. What follows is the creation of man, and consequently the Fall. Man introduced the sin of the earth, destroying the inherent harmony created by God.

Reading 2: Genesis 22: 1-18.

“Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love. Go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a night that I will point out to you.”

Sin has been introduced to the world at this point in the creation story. So, now what? The practice of sacrificing animals was quickly adopted. Mankind slaughtered their livestock to show repentance and fidelity to the Lord. Among these faithful men was Abraham, a man God promised would have descendants as many as the grains of sand.

Abraham accepts God’s order, though he far from understands it. He has Isaac carry the wood to build the altar for their sacrifice, symbolizing Christ carrying His cross to Golgotha. Except on his mountain, Isaac is spared from giving his life. God sees Abraham’s faith and willingness to lose his only son, and rewards his faith by sparing Isaac.

This is the first time God shows mankind what sin will cost us. It will cost an ultimate sacrifice, a life to redeem all lives. These first two readings of the Easter vigil, taken from Genesis, are the foundation of our Catholic Faith. God created goodness, mankind introduced sin. But God promised redemption, and He promised a sacrifice.

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Michelle C. Martin

Michelle graduated from Texas Tech University with her husband, Joshua, in May 2021 and married him in June on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She has a degree in Communication Studies and has loved growing in knowledge of healthy and authentic relationships during her time in college and adulthood. Michelle and Joshua currently reside in Lubbock, TX where he works as an architect and she loves life as a stay-at-home wife and mother to their children, Peter and Cecilia.

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