Saturday night was Easter Vigil. The first one we've ever attended! Being that we were received into the Catholic Church in October, it was also our first Easter in the Church.
And it was quite probably the most beautiful (and long!) service I've been a part of. At 3+ hours (!), it began at 8 pm outdoors in front of a huge fire, which was blessed by the priest and used to light the Paschal Candle. We then all processed into the Church where there was liturgy and readings and bells and baptisms and people being received into the Church--and of course the blessed Eucharist.
Afterwards, there was a huge celebration with wine and dinner and lots of desserts. We Catholics do a lot of feasting and celebrating, I have discovered. Hence the not getting home until 1:30 am.
Then yesterday we hosted my parents for Easter dinner and just enjoyed some good quality family time--trampoline, Wii, laughing, and eating way too many sweets. And of course reflecting on the fact that Jesus conquered death!
I am really hoping to embrace and be present in this Easter season. During the vigil (which includes lots of readings from Scripture), we sing the Gloria as we transition from Old Testament to New Testament readings. Bells were ringing like crazy, and person after person came quickly up the aisle preparing the formerly-bare altar: placing flowers around it, lighting candles...it was so beautiful and exciting and such an incredible picture of what Jesus' life, death, and resurrection mean. I had tears in my eyes as I took it all in.
My 8-year-old daughter summed it up well when she told me yesterday that she cannot WAIT for next year's vigil, that it was her favorite service so far. The girl loved it, and I did too--so absolutely worth the effort of keeping my seven kids in line and somewhat quiet for over three hours. :) In all seriousness, try to go next year, and find a parish that does the vigil in full (as opposed to a truncated version.) Protestant or agnostic or Catholic, you won't be sorry.
He is risen, and we are glad! Happy Easter, friends!