Music of Holy Week: The Easter Vigil

The silent darkness of Holy Saturday is shattered by the radiant light of the Easter fire and the resounding echoes of the great Easter Proclamation, known as the Exsultet. In this stunning liturgical moment, the priest or deacon sings the “perfect praises” of the “the light of Christ,” the Paschal candle. The candle represents the risen Christ, the “light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5). This light of Christ has been poured into the hearts of all the faithful through the grace of Baptism, and it will be poured into the hearts of those who have prepared throughout the Lenten season for this liturgy, when they will receive the Easter sacraments.

We pray that the light, “divided yet undimmed” may be kept burning as the Church continues her witness to Christ and to fulfill his exhortation to become herself “the light of the world” and the “salt of the earth” (cf. Matt 5:14–16). In the proclamation of the Exsultet and in the sharing and receiving of the light of Christ, we hear and see anew that, in the risen Christ, the words of St. John’s Gospel are fulfilled: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). May we carry this light within our hearts always; may we live the words of the Easter Proclamation this year and always.

The Exsultet

May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.


Carolyn Pirtle

Carolyn Pirtle is the program director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and a composer of liturgical music. She is the author of Praying the Rosary Together.

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