top of page

The Great Vigil of Easter

The Customary of Grace Church



On a table in the narthex:

  • A taper with which to light the paschal candle

  • The paschal candle

  • A candle for the celebrant

  • A candle for the M.C.

  • A brazier containing either kindling or alcohol-saturated salt

  • A lighter (or fireplace matches)

  • A flashlight (to illuminate the celebrant’s book before the fire is lighted)

  • A special notebook containing the text of the opening allocution and the prayer for the Blessing of the New fire.

On a table near the font:

  • The chrism

  • Candles for the newly-baptized

  • A ewer containing the water for Baptism

  • The empty vat and sprinkler

  • A special notebook containing the Baptismal liturgy

  • Marked Prayer Books (leaflets?) for the candidates and/or sponsors

  • Towels


In the chancel:

  • Service leaflets for all the ministers (concelebrants, readers, servers) 

At the M.C.’s table

  • The Grace Church Holy Week book

At the ambo:

  • Music for the Exsultet

  • A lectionary, with the lessons marked

Before the Rite Begins

  • The ministers and choir go to the narthex[1] by way of the north[2] aisle, in this order:

  • The Choir

  • The thurifer (carrying the thurible, without incense)

  • The concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet

  • The M.C.

  • The servers

  • The readers

  • The remaining concelebrants

  • The celebrant


All but the celebrant, the concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet,  the thurifer, and the M.C. carry unlighted candles.

The members of the choir stand  on the south side of the narthex, facing north. The thurifer, the concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet, and the M.C. stand at the south side of the table (the M.C. in the westernmost place)


The servers stand at the north side of the table, facing south.


The readers and the remaining concelebrants stand two abreast on the north side of the narthex, facing south.

The Service of Light

1.  The celebrant holds the book and reads the allocution.  A server shines the flashlight on the book.

2.   The celebrant hands the book to the M.C.

3.   Another server ignites the fire.

4.   The celebrant sings the blessing.

5.   The celebrant puts on incense and censes the new fire.   The thurifer, taking the thurible from the celebrant, goes at once to the entrance to the nave (six feet inside the door, toward the right)

6.   The celebrant lights the paschal candle.

7.   The M.C. puts the book down on the table, takes his candle, and goes to stand at the left of the thurifer. 

8.   The concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet, going to the entrance to the nave,[3] holds the paschal candle high and sings, “The Light of Christ” (at a low pitch).

9.   The procession moves through the church in this order:

  • The thurifer and M.C. (two abreast).

  • Mother Conway (carrying the paschal candle)

  • The M.C.

  • The servers (two or three abreast)

  • The readers (two abreast)

  • The remaining concelebrants (two abreast)

  • The principal celebrant

All who walk in the procession stand at least six feet behind those ahead of them.  They stop short whenever those ahead of them stop, never closing in on those ahead. 

10. In the middle of the nave, the concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet stops and sings (at a somewhat higher pitch), “The Light of Christ.”  He does not move an inch until all the ministers’ and people’s candles have been lighted.  The M.C. and the first two servers receive the light from the Paschal candle.  The M.C. passes it to those in the front to those in the nave.  The servers pass it to the servers, readers, and concelebrants behind them, who, in turn pass it to the people in the pews on their right and left.)

11. When all the candles have been lighted, the procession advances.

12. The concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet, having ascended the chancel steps, turns west and sings (at a still higher pitch), “The Light of Christ.”  All the lights in the church are turned on, except those near the altar.  Those behind him in the procession –other than the M.C.--stop and do not move until he has put the paschal candle in its stand and the M.C. gives  a signal.) All the lights in the church (except those nearest the altar) are turned on.


13. Assisted by the M.C., the concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet puts the candle into its stand.  Then the procession begins to advance.  The concelebrant who is to sing the Esxultet enters the ambo.  The M.C. stands behind him, the thurifer at his right (as at the Gospel).

14. The servers pass through the rails, bow to the altar, and take their places on the south side (in the old sedilia).

15. The readers, just outside the rails, bow to the altar.  Moving to the right (behind the old organ console), they go to their stalls near the ambo.  The first three pass through the back row and go to the front row.  The next three take their places in the back row. 

16. The concelebrants, (two by two), just outside the rails, bow to the altar and, moving to the left,  go to their stalls on the north side.

17. The  principal celebrant, having ascended the chancel steps, bows to the altar and goes directly to his chair. 

18. When all have taken their places,  the M.C. receives the censer from the thurifer and passes it to the concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet, who censes the paschal candle (from the ambo) and the book and returns the censer to the M.C.  The M.C. passes it to the thurifer.

19. He sings the Exsultet.[4]  At its conclusion the thurifer takes the censer to the sacristy (bowing to the altar just outside the rails), and goes to his place (bowing to the altar just inside the rails).  The concelebrant who is to sing the Exsultet  and M.C. go to their places (as at the end of the Gospel).

The Old Testament Lessons

21. The readers do not approach the ambo until the people are seated.  They do not  move during the collects.  As each goes to the ambo, the others move to the left, one place closer to the ambo.  On leaving the ambo each takes the place at the east end of the bench.

22. Particular collects are assigned to individual concelebrants.

Holy Baptism

23. The choir sings Sicut cervus as the ministers, sponsors, and candidates assemble at the font.

24. The concelebrant who has sung the Exsultet, assisted by the M.C., takes the paschal candle and leads a procession to the font.  The other ministers follow him (single file) in this order:

  • The M.C.

  • The principal celebrant

  • The remaining concelebrants

  • The servers


25. The procession passes in front of the font.


26. As he passes the table near the font, the M.C. picks up the special notebook.  

27. The concelebrant who has sung the Exsultet, the celebrant, and the M.C. stand directly behind the font on the lowest step, facing west.  The other concelebrants stand behind them (on the second step, facing west).

28. The servers stand on the floor at the north side of the font, facing south.

29. When the ministers have assembled at the font, the celebrant gives a signal, and the sponsors and candidates approach.  One of the servers “organizes” them, if necessary, and gives them marked Prayer Books if they do not have them.

30. The presentation and examination of the candidates and the baptismal covenant follow.  (For these the celebrant holds the book.)

31. The M.C. holds the book while the celebrant, with hands extended, sings the collect that concludes the Litany for the Candidates and the Thanksgiving over the Water.

32. Immediately before the Thanksgiving, a server brings the ewer to the celebrant, who pours the water into the font.


33. At the words, “now sanctify this water, we pray you…” (in the Thanksgiving over the Water), the celebrant takes the paschal candle from the concelebrant who is holding it and immerses it in the water three times.  He then returns the candle to him.


34. When each candidate has been baptized, a server takes a candle from the table, lights it from the paschal candle (held by The concelebrant who has sung the Exsultet), and hands it to the celebrant, who delivers it to the newly-baptized or to the sponsor.  The newly-baptized  and sponsor then withdraw to their places in the semi-circle in front of the font.

35. When all the candidates have been baptized, and the appointed prayer has been said, a server takes the vessel of Chrism from the table and gives it to the celebrant, who walks around anointing the newly-baptized. accompanied by the M.C. with the book.


36. Immediately after “We receive you into the household of God…” has been said, the concelebrant who is holding the paschal candle, assisted by one of the servers, puts it back into its stand by the ambo and returns to the font.


37. Meanwhile, another server gives the vat and sprinkler to the celebrant, who fills the vat.


38. The celebrant sprinkles those assembled at the font. 

39. The newly-baptized and their sponsors return to their pews. 

40. The ministers at the font go directly to the sacristy. 

41. The celebrant, in silence, walks down the nave, sprinkling the people.  On the way back he passes through the chancel, sprinkling those who are there.  Then he goes to the sacristy.  The thurifer follows him.

The Litany of the Saints

43. When the celebrant has left the church and not before, the cantor begins the Litany of the Saints.  The M.C., thurifer, and servers immediately begin lighting lamps and candles.  When all the lamps and candles in the sanctuary have been lighted, they return to the sacristy. 

44. As quickly as possible the entrance procession forms and approaches the altar in the following order:

  • Thurifer

  • Servers, now bearing cross and candles

  • Concelebrants (two by two)

  • Celebrant


45. The thurifer, crossbearer, and candlebearers go to their places on the south side.

46. The concelebrants (two by two) bow to the altar, ascend the steps, kiss the altar, turn left, and descend to the north side.  As soon as the celebrant has ascended the altar steps, they proceed to their places, single file (without bowing to the altar again).

47. The choir sings the Kyrie Lux et origo while the celebrant censes the altar.

The Mass

48. When the celebrant begins to cense the altar, one server goes to the bell at each of the side altars. 

49. After taking the thurible back from the celebrant, the thurifer goes to the bell at the high altar.

50. During the fanfare that precedes the Gloria in excelsis, the bells are rung.

51. After the Great Alleluia, during the singing of Psalm 114, the celebrant puts on incense, and the M.C. leads the concelebrant who is to sing the Gospel goes to the altar, where he takes up the Gospel Book.  The thurifer and M.C. precede him to the ambo.  Candles are not carried in the Gospel procession at the Easter Vigil Mass.

52.  The Creed and the Prayers of the People are omitted.

53.  All Else is done as usual.

54.  Eucharistic Prayer D is used.


[1] The glass-enclosed area at the back of the church, below the organ gallery.

[2] The parish house is north of the church.  The Rodino building is south of the church.  The altar is at the east end of the church.  The organ is at the west end of the church. 

[3]The part of the church in which the pews are located.

[4] Since he is a concelebrant, he does NOT ask for the celebrant’s blessing.

bottom of page