The Easter Liturgy has included baptism or the renewal of baptismal promises from the earliest times. Those who are baptized are united with Christ in his death and resurrection. Traditionally, new fire is kindled and from this the Easter Candle (The Great Paschal Candle) is lit and held aloft with the proclamation: ‘The light of Christ’. This Easter liturgy can provide a real experience of new life. This passing from darkness to light offers hope to all the faithful, as the Church celebrates the risen Christ. If you know of anybody who desires Baptism, Easter Eve is the most important Liturgical date when this can be accomplished.
The Official Doctrine of the Church of England on the Easter Vigil and its Importance in the Liturgical Life of the Christian Church
According to ancient custom there is no celebration of the Eucharist on Easter Eve. The orders of Morning and Evening Prayer offer adequate liturgical provision for the day. It is particularly important that Evening Prayer should be treated, by the style of its celebration, as belonging to the Eve, and not as the first service of Easter, anticipating the Easter Liturgy itself. From earliest times Christians have gathered through the night of Easter to recall the story of God’s saving work, from creation through to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, the Easter Liturgy is not merely a presentation of God’s work.
It is meant to be a real experience of new life for the worshipper, a passing from darkness to light which offers hope to all the faithful. It is therefore important that the preparation is prayerful and thorough. The Easter Vigil marks the end of the emptiness of Holy Saturday, and leads into the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. The singing of the Exsultet, the ancient hymn of triumph and rejoicing, links this night of our Christian redemption to the Passover night of Israel’s redemption out of Egypt. Christian baptism is a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, a dying to sin in order to be reborn in him, and the Easter Vigil was from early Christian times a preferred occasion for baptism. It is fittingly a time when those who are already Christians may repeat with renewed commitment the promises of their own baptism, and strengthen their sense of incorporation into the royal and priestly ministry of the whole people of God. The Easter Gospel is proclaimed with all the joy and splendour that the church can find. The Easter Eucharist may follow immediately on the Vigil, or be deferred until later on Easter Day. All the resources of the church – music, flowers, incense, bells, colours – are used to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. The ‘Alleluia’, which has been silent throughout Lent, returns.
‘Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendour, with the royal feast of feasts, comes its joy to render.’ (John of Damascus)