Easter Vigil – Liturgical Highpoint or Endurance Marathon? Some alternative suggestions

There was a recent request to us from Declan Thompson (SPMS)

I remember many years ago that someone put all the readings for the vigil together into one shorter reading, but memory being  as it is, I can’t remember any more about it than that!
Fr. James Martin SJ wrote raising the question about shortening the readings, so I may only be imagining. What I am trying to remember may go back 40 – 50 years. Is there a better Mr memory man among you? Or have you any other helpful ideas?

James Martin’s article (link here)raises an issue about the vigil; is it too long?
Does anyone care to share their parish experiences, share what actually happens with parish celebrations of the Vigil rather than the ideal one would wish for?


Links to resources:


Provided by Padraig McCarthy

Longford 2002

Exultet arranged

Genesis for Vigil

Condensed Readings


Provided by Joe Caulfield

Alternative 3 readings Easter Vigil

Vigil Liturgy of Word Augustinian Website

Alternative O.T. Readings Augustinian Youth Website


Provided by Seamus Ahearne

Holy Thursday Liturgy

Easter Vigil


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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    I remember with embarrassment the Easter Vigil in St Finbarr’s (the South Chapel) in Cork in 1977. The PP Owen Cashman had got the idea of rereading the entire passion narrative once again, in the dark (a super-marathon) and then having the church suddenly flooded with light at the moment of the resurrection. I had left on the light outside the confessional so the whole effect was lamed, and someone had to rush from the altar to the confessional to put it out.

  2. Fr Michael O'Connor says:

    Greetings, I have a memory of a vigil by Fr Seamus Ryan pp St Matthews Ballyfermot, being printed in the Intercom 25-30 yrs ago.

  3. Mattie Long says:

    The origin of the practice Joe O Leary refers to and the “Seamus Ryan Vigil” referred to by Michael O Connor is probably to be found in an article in the The Furrow of 1974 by Seamus.

    Ryan, Séamus. “The Easter Vigil: An Alternative Model?” The Furrow, vol. 25, no. 5, 1974, pp. 239–245. JSTOR

    It is free to read at http://www.jstor.org/stable/27679931.

    You need to sign up with JSTOR, which is worthwhile in that it gives you free access to a limited number of articles each month from a great diversty of publications.

  4. Joe Caulfield says:

    Hello Mattie, on the Augustinian Youth website 2014 (or so) I was pleased to find a shortened & shared reading of 4 O.T. passages, with a psalm in between.
    I have slightly adapted it for a 4 part shared reading.
    Also, I have adapted it for 3 separate readers.
    I will see if I can send as attachments.
    With regards, Joe

  5. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    I’ve had experience of Easter Vigils, from a “mini-vigil” lasting little more than an hour, to a full-night, 10pm to 5am (complete with break for refreshments). A lot will depend on the community taking part.

    But it would seem a pity to lose the idea of what a vigil is. It’s not just the “eve”, the night before the day. It’s a “Wake!” – vigil means to stay awake and watchful, being vigilant. If it’s just a “night before” it’s not a vigil in the true sense. We do keep vigil: it could be with a sick child, or waiting for a much-anticipated arrival from far away, or awaiting a birth, or watching an important event (to you) on TV like a sports event or a political speech, catching an early flight when you need to be at the airport three hours beforehand, or flying/sailing/railing through the night. What about the tradition of a “wake” with someone we love who has died? Or staying through the night with a person who is dying?

    There are those whose work for the community regularly involves vigil: hospital staff, security, essential services like power, etc., media which offer 24-hour coverage, those who edit and print and distribute newspapers.

    Why is it we tend to think a real vigil for Easter is out of the question once in the year? Does Easter mean so little that we want it to be “convenient”, not upsetting our normal pattern?

    If we really do keep vigil, of course, then the question arises of how we keep vigil: what we do and remember and hear and sing and see.

    What if those who come on Easter morning would walk in and see and smell and feel there was something strange: what on earth happened here last night? Perhaps the church should not be “tidied up” after the vigil, but still show obvious signs of the vigil and the vigilant. Perhaps lead to the thought: I wish I had been here last night.

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