This is the climax of our week of activities. We come with joy to meet our risen Lord in the Sacrament on Easter Day. On Easter Sunday morning at sunrise we meet outside the church and the service begins with the lighting of the new fire. As God, in the Old Testament made his presence known by the sign of the pillar of fire, so fire now represents the return of Christ, the light of the world, from the darkness of the grave. The Paschal Candle is lit from the new fire, and we enter the darkened church in procession. The darkness reminds us of the darkness of Calvary, when Christ died on the cross, and the darkness of the tomb. As the procession moves up through the Church, the light spreads and the church is revealed in all the glory of its Easter decorations.
The Paschal candle is set up and will burn at all services until the Feast of the Ascension (and thereafter at Baptisms and funerals) a reminder that Christ is risen and always present with us. The Exultet, or Easter Proclamation is recited, a great hymn of praise, and then lessons and psalms and hymns remind us of the redemption Christ brings.
The sunrise on Easter Sunday morning signifies Christ's passage from the dead to the living by the liturgy which begins in darkness (sin, death) and is enlightened by the fire and the candle representing Lumen Christi (the Light of Christ) just as the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the community of believers, is led from spiritual darkness to the light of his truth. We rejoice at Christ's resurrection from the darkness of the tomb; and we pray for our passage from death into eternal life, from sin into grace, from the weariness and infirmity of old age to the freshness and vigour of youth, from the anguish of the Cross to peace and unity with God, and from this sinful world unto the Father in heaven.
During the service we renew the vows of our Baptism and are sprinkled with water as a reminder of the event, for Baptism is the Sacrament in which we die with Christ and rise again to new life in him.