14% increase in number of new Catholics welcomed into Church during Easter Vigil in Orange diocese
News release from the Diocese of Orange
The Easter Vigil Rite consists of four elements: The Service of Light, the Liturgy of the Word, Christian Initiation and Renewal of Baptismal Vows, and the Holy Eucharist.
The Service of the Light: Began outside the church, in darkness. The darkness represents evil, deceit, and sin and allows the believer to reflect on these metaphors as obstacles to faith. Worshippers gather around a freshly lit bonfire known as the new fire or Easter Fire. The fire is blessed and from it the Paschal candle, which symbolizes the Light of the Risen Christ, is lighted. A priest then carries the burning Paschal candle at the head of a procession and into the church. He will stop three times and chant “Light of Christ,” to which the people and attending clergy respond, “Thanks be to God.”
Once the procession entered the sanctuary the Easter proclamation or Exultet was sung. This ancient hymn of praise recounts God’s saving acts throughout history, and asks God to accept the Easter Candle as it dispels the darkness as does Christ, who sheds his graceful light on all humankind. The congregation then sat for the second Vigil element.
The Liturgy of the Word: Seven readings, recounting the history of the People of God and an additional New Testament reading where altar candles were lit, bells rung, and the Alleluiasung for the first time since the beginning of Lent, all in preparation of the proclamation of the Resurrection from the Gospel. A homily followed.
Christian Initiation and Renewal of Baptismal Vows: Following the Liturgy of the Word, all elect and candidates for entrance into the Faith joined the congregation invoking the saints by means of an ancient litany. After a blessing of the water within the baptismal font, the group was asked to renounce sin and profess their faith in Christ. The elect were then baptized into the Church. Baptism is the sacramental entry into Christian life. After the Elect were baptized, they and the witnessing congregants, were sprinkled with the same baptismal water.
The Profession of Faith, for those who have already been baptized and those converting from other Christian traditions, followed. Candidates were asked if they reject sin, reject the glamour of evil and reject Satan and asked to express their belief in the Creed. The newly-baptized and those who have made their profession of faith then shared in the sacrament of Confirmation. When Catholics complete the Sacraments of Initiation they are confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
All newly baptized, and those who have made their first Profession of Faith, stood with their individual Confirmation sponsors as they were anointed with Chrism, a holy oil blessed earlier in Holy Week during the solemn and beautiful Chrism Mass.
Celebration of the Holy Eucharist: The Easter Vigil liturgy culminated with the celebration of Holy Eucharist, the final sacrament of initiation. For the first time, candidates and the elect received the body and blood of Jesus Christ through Holy Communion. This sacrament is considered to be an intimate encounter with Christ, in which people receive Christ into their bodies, under the species of consecrated bread and wine. This holy sacrament is the final step in their initiation into the Roman Catholic Church and the beginning of their journey with Christ. It is carried out in keeping with the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus, in which he asks that his disciples “Do this in memory of me.”
For the Diocese of Orange, the number of inductees set a new record – an increase of over 14 percent when compared to last year’s impressive count.