All Souls on Vigil

All Souls on Vigil

Deacon Rob Lewis


Last Saturday night I participated in the Great Vigil as the deacon who lit and carried the large paschal candle. Deacon Mary (who prepared the liturgy and rubrics) was to have done this task, but was unable because of an injury sustained the day before.

This was my first vigil and I was nervous about my assignment. Would the giant candle light from the fire Rich had built?  Would the fire stay ablaze in the wind and the rain?  Would I remember the words as I marked the paschal candle and led the procession into the nave? Would my hands mar the beautiful scene of the river of life Cristy had painted on the candle?

Would I be faithful to my task?

I was reminded of the words of Jesus to his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

I was nearly overwhelmed by the weight of the candle, four feet tall and several inches in diameter. As I climbed the steps holding the candle, I was not able to pull up my alb. I stepped on it, tripping several times as I tried to hold the candle steady. “This is what it’s like,” I thought, “to carry the light of Christ.”

I was mindful of how much we need one another, at a time we cannot come together. In our present darkness we bear Christ’s light together in our vigil. Together we bear its burden – of our judgment and our salvation.

“Stay here and keep watch,” says Jesus.  On Saturday night I was reassured and comforted by the working presence of our souls, Brad on camera, Rich kindling the creation fire and reading along with Joel and Lydia the stories that remind us of the whole arc of salvation. Joy chanted the entire Exsultet, and stayed on pitch without the aid of instrument, a triumph in itself.

We carried out the vigil in the sacred space of our nave, transformed into a blooming desert by Cristy, David and Brittney. As the candle processed to the apex of the altar, its river ran through our desert. “Behold I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” (Is 43:19)

Our souls are overwhelmed with sorrow. The church calendar moves forward, but we are out of rhythm. It feels like we have yet to catch up with Easter.

Keep vigil for us, risen Lord, even as we keep vigil and wait on you. We are souls on vigil. Keep us in your name, that we may be one, even as you are one.

Weeping may last for the night, but a song of joy comes in the morning.