|The Easter Vigil|
A person seeking admittance to the mysteries of the Church became a catechumen on Ash Wed and spent the whole of Lent preparing to be admitted to Holy Eucharist. In those days, if you were not baptized, you were dismissed from the church before the time of Holy Communion. So full admittance to the Eucharist was an important experience for all of the Church.
In Christian communities all over, on Maundy Thursday all fires, not just the altar lights were extinguished. Hearth fires and all lights were extinguished for all of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. And until the building of the New Fire on Holy Saturday, people not only lived in darkness, they lived and slept in the cold. As soon as the new fire was lit, runners took torches to peoples’ homes, and the light and warmth of Christ’s light spread through the communities, hearth to hearth and heart to heart. Then the community gathered in their churches and the candidates for baptism returned from their retreat.
The candidates for baptism would prepare for this night with fasting and prayer and then be brought into the church in darkness following the Pascal candle. The Exultet is one of the few ancient chants that we preserve in our tradition along with the litany and the sursum corda. The Pascal candle signifies the Pillar of Fire by night that led the Children of Israel through the desert... HERE
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