By Grace Sly
Blackness. The darkness envelops the church and there is silence, a quiet almost as dark as the chapel. A flicker of light! The glow of orange and yellow can be seen from the back pews of the church to outside the doors where a fire sits. As the altar servers light their own candles in the fire, they lead a procession of people down the aisle until the priest reaches the altar. The servers use the flame from their candles to light those held by the first attendee in each pew. They, in turn, ignite their neighbors.
A face recognizable to St. Teresa’s Academy is illuminated as freshman Carson Beineman receives a flame. She stands between her mother and sister, eyes directed at the altar. This is a familiar ritual for Beineman. One Saturday every year her family observes the Easter Vigil at Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish.
The Catholic Church recognizes and celebrates the beginning of Easter during the Easter Vigil. Every year, families come together and participate in this three hour holy ritual known as the most beautiful liturgy of the Church calender. The Vigil is divided into four parts (Service of light, Liturgy of the World, Liturgy of Baptism, and Liturgy of Eucharist) and is celebrated between sunset and sunrise on Holy Saturday, marking the passage of Jesus Christ’s death to life.
“[The Easter Vigil is] my sisters and mine favorite mass each year,” Beineman said.
Carson, with her parents Mr. Don Beineman and Mrs. Holly Beineman, and her sister Alex Beineman, attends the Vigil annually. It’s an ongoing tradition since Carson was two years old and continues through her high school years.
“I know the Vigil is a special time for the Beinemans,” Visitation Pastoral Associate Peg Ekert said. “They come every year. It’s a family tradition.”
Seventh grade alter server Lily Wayne agrees, acknowledging she sees the family at the mass whenever she attends.
“I love the Easter Vigil because of the baptisms and because you’re more involved than [in] regular mass,” Beineman said, “I think you can connect with [the Vigil] more [than a normal mass] and it is easier to understand.”
This year, Carson and her family gathered with other parishioners around the baptismal fountain to celebrate the baptism of six adults. Each man or woman ready to be baptized made their way to the pool where they wade in the water and, like John the Baptist baptized his followers, the priest said a blessing as he poured water on their heads. Each newly entered member of the Church was greeted with a welcoming hymn sung by the congregation.
According to Ekert, Visitation is a welcoming community with people who care about their faith, their families and one another. The Beinemans are one of these families.
“I think [there’s a special sense of connection and belonging] because for one night we are all getting the same meaning out of the Vigil,” Beineman said.
According to Visitation Pastoral Associate Steve Engler, the different parts of the Vigil such as the waters of new birth and darkness to light point to actual moments of life when we have experienced new life.
Light. The golden hue of candles reveal the identities of the worshipers. The sound of a hundred voices fill the chapel as the church members, both returning and newly welcomed, rejoice together for their savior’s rising. Standing with her family, her church, her community, and her friends, Carson smiles as another Easter Vigil has come and gone.