At the Church of the Ascension, we celebrate the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ year-round, at every service. But we celebrate the event of the resurrection, particularly, during Eastertide, and especially at the first four Eucharists held at the conclusion of Holy Week: in candlelight and mystery at the Easter Vigil after sunset on Saturday night; in the joyful spoken Word at our 9 am Eucharist on Easter Sunday morning; in grand and formal style at our 11 am choral Eucharist; and again, more quietly, at the 7 pm service of meditation and sacraments on Easter Sunday evening. The two most popular services are the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday’s festal Eucharist.
The Great Vigil of Easter
Saturday, April 15, 8 p.m.
At dusk on the third day of the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday), we gather in darkness to kindle new fire, which we then spread among ourselves as candlelight. We remind ourselves of the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how he saved his people in ages past, including Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea. Then with joyful exuberance, we celebrate the discovery of an empty tomb with the first Eucharist of Easter: He is risen! Alleluia!
From An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church
Easter Vigil: The liturgy intended as the first (and arguably, the primary) celebration of Easter in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer (BCP). It is also known as the Great Vigil. The service begins in darkness, sometime between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter, and consists of four parts: The Service of Light (kindling of new fire, lighting the Paschal candle, the Exsultet); The Service of Lessons (readings from the Hebrew Scriptures interspersed with psalms, canticles, and prayers); Christian Initiation (Holy Baptism) or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows; and the Eucharist. Through this liturgy, the BCP recovers an ancient practice of keeping the Easter feast. Believers would gather in the hours of darkness ending at dawn on Easter to hear scripture and offer prayer. This night-long service of prayerful watching anticipated the baptisms that would come at first light and the Easter Eucharist. Easter was the primary baptismal occasion for the early church to the practical exclusion of all others. This practice linked the meanings of Christ’s dying and rising to the understanding of baptism.
Music for the Easter Vigil, 8 p.m.
In addition to the chants (such as the Exsultet) and psalms of the Vigil, the Offertory Anthem will be Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924).
Ye choirs of new Jerusalem,
Your sweetest notes employ,
The Paschal victory to hymn
In strains of holy joy.
For Judah’s Lion bursts his chains,
Crushing the serpent’s head;
And cries aloud through death’s domains
To wake the imprisoned dead.
Devouring depths of hell their prey
At his command restore;
His ransomed hosts pursue their way
Where Jesus goes before.
Triumphant in his glory now
To him all power is given;
To him in one communion bow
All saints in earth and Heaven.
While we, His soldiers, praise our King,
His mercy we implore,
Within his palace bright to bring
And keep us evermore.
All glory to the Father be,
All glory to the Son,
All glory, Holy Ghost, to Thee,
While endless ages run.
Offerte du Veme ton: Vive le Roi!
André Raison (ca. 1640-1719).
On Easter Sunday at Ascension, we will celebrate with a joyful “said” Eucharist at 9 a.m.; the “sung” festal Eucharist — with full choir, incense, lilies, and probably several women sporting fine millinery — at 11 a.m., followed by an Easter Egg Hunt for the children and an Easter Brunch for everyone; and then a more meditative, but no less joyful, service of worship and sacrament at 7 p.m.
From An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church
Easter: The feast of Christ’s resurrection. According to Bede, the word derives from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess Eostre. Christians in England applied the word to the principal festival of the church year, both day and season. 1) Easter Day is the annual feast of the resurrection, the pascha [derived from the Hebrew פֶּסַח, transliterated as “Pesach”] or Christian Passover, and the eighth day of cosmic creation. Faith in Jesus’ resurrection on the Sunday or third day following his crucifixion is at the heart of Christian belief. Easter sets the experience of springtime next to the ancient stories of deliverance and the proclamation of the risen Christ. In the west, Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the vernal equinox. Easter always falls between Mar. 22 and Apr. 25 inclusive. Following Jewish custom, the feast begins at sunset on Easter Eve with the Great Vigil of Easter. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on the first Sunday after the Jewish pesach or Passover (which follows the spring full moon). Although the two dates sometimes coincide, the eastern date is often one or more weeks later. 2) Easter Season. See Great Fifty Days.
Music for Easter Sunday, 11 a.m.
In addition to some of the most rousing hymns of the Christian year, the music for Easter at the Church of the Ascension is particularly special — at a parish already renowned for its attention to worship through music.
Fugue in E-flat Major (St. Anne)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Sing Ye to the Lord
Edward Bairstow (1874-1946)
Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumph’d gloriously.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath He cast into the sea.
Mighty Victim from the sky,
Hell’s fierce pow’rs beneath Thee lie;
Thou hast conquer’d in the fight,
Thou hast brought us life and light;
Now no more can death appall,
Now no more the grave enthrall,
Thou hast open’d Paradise,
And in Thee Thy Saints shall rise.
Christians, to the Paschal victim offer your thankful praises! A lamb the sheep redeemeth: Christ, who only is sinless, reconcileth sinners to the Father. Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous: the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal. Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning! Amen.
Chorus from Messiah
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and hath redeemed us to God by his blood to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. Blessing, and honor, glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen.
Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630)
Thou hallowed chosen morn of praise, that best and greatest shinest:
Fair Easter, Queen of all the days, of seasons, best, divinest!
Christ rose from death; and we adore for ever and for evermore.
Come, let us taste the vine’s new fruit, for heav’nly joy preparing;
Today the branches with the root in resurrection sharing:
Whom as true God our hymns adore for ever and for evermore.
—St. John of Damascus; tr. J.M. Neale
Arranged by Parker-Shaw
On Easter morn, at break of day the three saint Maries sped
Towards the tomb where Jesus lay, already three days dead.
Seemed light the burden that they bore
of myrhh and spice, of goodly store,
When came they first, the Sabbath past,
To salve His Body o’er. But at His grave they saw a sight,
The stone was rolled away; and thereon sat an Angel bright,
Which unto them did say: “Fear not: Go tell the elev’n that He
Precedes them into Galilee, o’er is the strife;
The Lord of life hath won the victorie.”
Lodovico Viadanna (1560-1627)
Exsultate just in Domino: rectos decet coll auditio.
Confitemi Domino in cithara, in psalterio decem chordarum psalllite illi. Cantate ei conticum novum, bene psallite ei in vociferatione.
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just: praise is fitting for the upright.
Give praise to God upon the harp, play upon the ten-stringed psaltery.
Sing to him a new song, sing skillfully with a strong voice.
O Taste and See
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
O taste and see how gracious the Lord is: blest is the man that trusteth in him.
Toccata (Symphonie V)
Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)