According to Wikipedia - a vigil -from the Latin vigilia - meaning wakefulness - is a period of purposeful sleeplessness - an occasion for devotional watching - or an observance. The Italian word vigilia has become generalized in this sense and means "eve" - as in on the eve of the war. To participate in any vigil means sitting - waiting - expecting. To sit in vigil does not means always at night - a person may spend hours in the waiting room of a hospital - sitting in vigil - while a loved one undergoes surgery. Waiting at home - for hour upon hour - waiting for delivery of new furniture - or the arrival of a repair person - may also be considered a vigil. To those who participate in religious services - the thought automatically is the night of a significant event - the spiritual waiting period - an anticipation of a revelation from God. In the Catholic church - any service celebrated the evening before a specific morning service is considered a Vigil.
The Mother of all Vigils - is the Easter Vigil - the most Holy Mass of the liturgical year - the most significant Mass in the Catholic Church. At the Easter Vigil - numerous significant firsts of the liturgical year are celebrated. The Church blesses the Easter fire from which The Paschal - Easter Candle - is lit. Then the Exultant - a song of Easter joy - is chanted. The service continues with seven readings from the Hebrew Scriptures - with accompanying Psalms - followed by the reading of the Epistle from Saint Paul - then the proclamation of the Gospel of the Lord. A Homily - explaining the salvation story - from the Israelites to Jesus' Death and Resurrection follows. At this point the Rite of Christian Initiation is celebrated during which the water in the font is blessed for the first time - followed by the Baptism and Anointing of the candidates with Sacred Chrism - with full reception into the Holy Catholic Church. Mass then continues as normal with the neophytes receiving Holy Communion for the first time with their new parish community. Finally the Vigil concludes with the Deacon chanting the double Alleluia - sending all out into the World to continue the Works of Jesus. In two to three hours - the parish community - with their priests and deacons - sit Vigil - remembering those hours that followed the Crucifixion of Jesus. History has revealed the miracle that followed - the Resurrection from the dead - the new life offered to all in Jesus the Christ. Each year we remember - we recreate - we believe - that Jesus is Lord,