Bishop Robert Deeley celebrates the Great Vigil of Easter at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

"In the sadness of the Passion and death of the Lord, we were in darkness. But now, in the light of the Easter fire and the newly lit Paschal candle, symbol of the Risen Christ, we are in the light.”

That was Bishop Robert Deeley’s message as he celebrated the Great Vigil of Easter on the evening Saturday, March 30, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

“Mark the evangelist tells us that when the women went out on Easter Sunday morning to Jesus’ burial place, it was dark. It was early in the morning, but he says, 'the sun had risen.' There would be light in the darkness for the women, and for the disciples, and for all Christians through the ages,” the bishop said.

The Easter Vigil, considered the greatest of all the Church’s solemnities, begins in darkness, as the faithful await the Risen Christ. It is why the vigil is always held after nightfall.

“On this most sacred night, in which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life, the Church calls upon her sons and daughters, scattered throughout the world, to come together to watch and pray,” the bishop said. “If we keep the memorial of the Lord’s paschal solemnity in this way, listening to his word and celebrating his mysteries, then we shall have the sure hope of sharing his triumph over death and living with him in God."

The Mass began in the narthex of the cathedral, where the only light came from a specially prepared Easter fire, which the bishop blessed. He then prepared the Easter candle on which are depicted a cross, the nails of a cross, and the letters Alpha and Omega, signifying Christ is the beginning and the end.

“All time belongs to him, and all the ages. To him be glory and power through every age and forever,” the bishop said, as he traced the inscriptions on the cross.

The bishop then touched the nails of the cross, saying, “By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard us and protect us.”

The paschal candle was then lit with the flame from the new fire and from that candle, the candles held by priests, altar servers, and parishioners were lit. As was the case at churches around Maine and the world, the light of Christ was shared from candle to candle. The nave of the church, while still dark, became bathed in a sort glow.

The candles remained lit as Father Seamus Griesbach, rector of the cathedral, sang the Exsultet, the great proclamation of Easter, a hymn that dates as far back at the fourth century.

"This is the night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me and full of gladness,” proclaimed Father Griesbach.

After the Exultet, a series of Scripture readings were shared which told the salvation story, culminating in the sharing of Mark’s Gospel when the women went to the tomb, only to find the stone rolled back and an angel awaiting them, telling them, ‘He has been raised; he is not here.”

"With these powerful words, an angel, God’s messenger, robed in light, spoke to the women who were looking for the body of Jesus in the tomb. But the Evangelist says the same thing to us on this holy night: Jesus is not a character from the past. He lives, and he walks before us as one who is alive, he calls us to follow him, the living one, and in this way to discover for ourselves, too, the path of life,” the bishop said. “And so we can say - Happy Easter!“

The bishop said the fact that Jesus rose from the dead isn't just a historical event. He said it has meaning for us today because Jesus continues to walk among us.

"We can have a personal relationship with him, one of faith and trust and hope. Jesus is alive today. We can talk to him and tell him about our lives. We can even eat his body and drink his blood in the Eucharist," the bishop said.

During the Easter Vigil Mass, the Gloria was again sung, the bells, which had been silent, were again rung, and “Alleluia” was proclaimed for the first time since the start of Lent, all signs of rejoicing.

The Easter Vigil is also a joyous occasion because on this night new Catholics are welcomed into the faith at churches around the world. This Easter season, the Church in Maine is welcoming 160 new members, including nine individuals who were baptized by the bishop at the cathedral.

"We are grateful to those who are to be baptized," the bishop said. "The expression they have made of wanting to be followers of Jesus and part of the Church reminds us that our gathering this evening is not just a commemoration of an event from the past. It is not just a reminder of the events of Easter. It is more than a simple washing or rite of purification from sin, it is truly death and resurrection, rebirth, and transformation to a new life.”

After the newly baptized received the sacrament of confirmation from the bishop, the candles they were given during their baptism were used to again light the candles of parishioners' throughout the church, who then renewed their own baptismal promises.

“Water and light – they show us the love of God on this Easter night," the bishop said. "In our prayer today, then, let us ask the Risen Christ that he grant us the faith to experience the joy of his light; and that we ourselves, washed clean by the waters of baptism, may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant risen face may enter our world.”

As was the case throughout the triduum, the Easter Vigil Mass was a multicultural celebration, with readings offered in English, French, and Spanish, and hymns sung in French, Polish, and Vietnamese. In addition, young Vietnamese dancers carried the gifts of bread and wine to the bishop for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

As is traditional at the cathedral, the Easter Vigil concluded with the choir and congregation joyously singing, "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."

Bishop Robert Deeley will celebrate the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the cathedral at 10 a.m. on Easter. A list of Mass times around the diocese can be found here.





The bishop blesses the Easter fire.
The bishop touches the nails on the candle.
The bishop lights the Easter candle.
An altar server lights his candle from the Easter candle.
Lighting the candles on the altar.
The choir
Father Seamus Griesbach incenses the Book of the Gospel.
Bishop Robert Deeley delivers his homily.
A view from the back of the church.
A girl is baptized by the bishop.
A godparent receives the baptismal candle from the bishop.
A godparent receives the baptismal candle from the bishop.
A young man is confirmed by the bishop.
A young man is confirmed by the bishop.
Vietnamese dancers.
Liturgy of the Eucharist.