I used to think that it was crazy to try to bring young children to the multi-hour Epic Liturgical Celebration that is the Easter Vigil.
We’ve done it, a couple of times, and both times were rewarded when the youngest child blessed us (and everyone in nearby pews) by falling asleep. In the dim light of the church during the Liturgy of the Word at the Easter Vigil, that’s a likely occurrence, and if the child managed to stay asleep during the Alleluia and the sprinkling with water, so much the better.
But no matter what the age and wiggle level of your children, there’s one part of the Easter Vigil you really shouldn’t miss.
In our parish, the Boy Scout troop is responsible for safely building, tending, extinguishing and cleaning up the Easter Vigil fire. Who better to ask for a job like this? They dress in their uniforms and respectfully execute this responsibility. And they do it up big. There is no wimpy little fire when the Boy Scouts are involved. People have to back up when it gets going.
In the photo above, the fire is so big that you can’t even see Father! The deacon is holding the Easter Candle.
The beginning of the Easter Vigil is something you and your family don’t want to miss. In some parishes, you’ll get to see the year inscribed into the Easter Candle, and the pegs representing Christ’s wounds will be inserted. And then the Easter Fire is started, and everyone is given a candle so that the fire can spread through the congregation as they return to the church and to their pews.
“Light of Christ!” Father will chant.
“Thanks be to God!” everyone will answer.
If the prospect of attending the entire Easter Vigil with your small (or not-so-small) children seems to be too much, you can still bring the family to the fire. Linger a little by the flames that represent the Light of Christ. And when everyone has gone inside to continue celebrating the liturgy, quietly go home. Have a treat with your children: Christ is risen! Then return for Mass the next morning to continue the celebration.
As your children grow older, you’ll know when they’re able to handle an Easter Vigil Mass from start to finish. But for now, you can begin to introduce them to the beauty of this feast by bringing the family to the fire.
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS