Catholic Sentinel photos by Jon DeBellis
Archbishop Alexander Sample prepares the Easter candle at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Mary Cathedral.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Jon DeBellis
Archbishop Alexander Sample prepares the Easter candle at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Mary Cathedral.

Thousands gathered across the Archdiocese of Portland for Easter Vigil celebrations.

The "mother of all vigils" according to the Missale Romanum, the vigils began at nightfall with small outdoor fires. From those fires, a single light emerged atop the paschal or Easter candle. The candle was then carried by congregations and clergy into darkened churches until that one candle lit up individual candles of all the faithful, illuminating each Catholic church with the light of Christ.

"It truly is the most beautiful liturgy," said Marta Mercado, a religious education at St. Patrick Parish in Northwest Portland. She passed out candles at a bilingual Easter Vigil in both Spanish and English.

The vigil is also an occasion for baptisms and confirmations, and when the elect and candidates come into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Alexander Sample during his homily at the Easter Vigil at St. Mary Cathedral congratulated those in attendance, saying that the Easter Vigil, a two to three hour celebration, is "not for wimps."

"This liturgy tonight is about resurrection; new life," said the archbishop.

Archbishop Sample went on to describe the symbols of light, water and oil during the Easter Vigil Mass and how each "profoundly Catholic symbol" speaks to the faithful and leads them to the risen Christ in the Eucharist, the bread and wine that become the body and blood of Jesus.

The light symbolizes Christ risen from the dead. A light that shines through the darkness in our lives — through sadness, death, sickness and poverty, said the archbishop.

The water used in baptisms at the Mass symbolizes Christ's victory over death.

The oil, used in anointing those being confirmed, is symbolic of the Holy Spirit that gave birth to the church. The fragrance of that oil, said the archbishop, is a reminder to give off the fragrance of Christ — to share the gift of faith with others.

"What a glorious night, a night of victory, a night of resurrection," said Archbishop Sample.