I was blessed to attend the Easter Vigil at the Launceston Carmel, ably celebrated by Fr Paul, a worthy and learned Dominican, and a long-standing friend of mine since Melbourne days; he was assisted by Brian, the usual server there, who looked after the thurible and incense also. The good nuns there believe in doing the Vigil properly: all the readings are read, and the Mass of the Resurrection begins in the middle of the night.
For the record, the liturgy began at 11:00 pm, with the blessing of the new fire (symbol of the Creation ex nihilo) and the lighting of the Paschal Candle (symbol of Christ, the Light who shineth in the darkness). Fr Paul chanted Lumen Christi thrice; thrice we replied, Deo gratias, and lit our small candles from the one source of light. He then sang the Exsultet, that marvellous homiletic canticle, one of the richest still-used pieces of mystagogical catechesis, fit to be compared with the Easter Sermon of St John Chrysostom, and the Carmen Paschale of Melito of Sardis.
At 11:20 pm, the nuns, from within the screen on their side of the chapel, then began the seven readings of the Vigil, interspersed with psalmody, and Father's chanting of the collects following each; this took 45 minutes all told.
Just after midnight, at 12:05 am, we all joined in singing the Gloria in excelsis (Mass I, Lux et origo, for Eastertide - how appropriate a title), and thus began the Mass, with chanted collect, reading of the Epistle, singing of the triple Alleluia with Psalm 117, and the Gospel of the Resurrection. Father's homily – a reflection on the mystery of Christ's descent to Sheol, and his triumph over death – began at 12:15 am. Aptly he compared the mystery whereby Christ is truly risen, but his triumph is still hidden, to the self-oblation of the Carmelite nuns, who live an enclosed life of prayer and penance, striving to indeed confess their lives hidden with Christ in God.
At 12:25 am, the Easter water was blessed, our baptismal vows were renewed, and then – a ceremony special to Carmel – the nuns all renewed their religious vows, before we were aspersed.
The offertory began at 12:35 am. Father chanted the Prayer over the Oblations and the Preface; after the Sanctus (Mass I), he began the Roman Canon, including all the saints and all the repetitions of "Through Christ our Lord. Amen." – a very important Christological confession, whose unwise omission reveals a basic incomprehension of that great prayer. He even chanted the central part, including the Consecration. Similarly, the doxology, the Lord's Prayer and following prayers were chanted, down to the Agnus Dei (Mass I). After the nuns, we were able to come forward to make our Easter Communion, uniting ourselves to the Lord who has conquered sin, Satan, death and hell. Mass concluded with the usual sung prayer, solemn blessing, and dismissal with double alleluia, before the final hymn at 1:10 am.
After Mass, it was great to wish a happy Easter to Fr Paul before I drove home; I extend the same Easter greeting to all readers.
Christ is risen: He is risen indeed.