The Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil


At St Philip's, the Easter Vigil is held at 6am on Easter Day, about dawn. There are three parts: the Service of Light, the Exultet, and the Service of the Word.

Once the sanctuary candles are lit from the new Paschal candle, the light is passed through the congregation from one person to the next, so that everyone has a small candle each. Then the deacon sings the Exultet.

The Exultet is a proclamation of joy and salvation and has roots in the first centuries of Christianity. Its language is ancient, its theology embedded in the world though of the time. It strongly emphasizes salvation from sin and the new life in Christ. In form, it is a thanksgiving, a cousin to the Eucharistic prayer. It recalls the greatness of God, includes a dialogue with the assembly that is like a preface, and it concludes with an offering — an offering of the candle to God.

The text expresses the meaning of Easter. It invites heaven, earth and the church to rejoice ('exult') in this feast. It recalls Israel's Exodus and proclaims a new 'exodus'. New Christians cross through water from slavery to freedom and all the church shares in the rising of Christ. Easter is the most blessed of festivals, the festival of Passover, baptism, resurrection, and redemption. In joy we offer God our Easter candle, a pillar of fire, mingling with the lights of heaven, a candle which will meet Christ, the Morning Star, whose resurrection forever dispels darkness.

The Exultet is a glorious proclamation, and the early church wrapped it in a cloak of melodious chant, then entrusted it to the deacon, whose ministry added to its dignity. It is a powerful beginning to the Easter feast, a rich proclamation of salvation, sung in gorgeous chant by a minister ordained to proclaim the Gospel.

The glorious music is here (pdf)

Here it is sung by Geoff Losee of the Choir of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Wilmington, North Carlina.


Rejoice, heavenly powers!
Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice O earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered, glory fill you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church!
Exult in glory!
The risen Saviour shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God's people!
My dearest friends, standing with me in this holy light, join me in asking God for mercy, that he might grant me, his unworthy Levite, grace to sing his Easter praises.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices we should praise the unseen God,
the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!
This is our Passover feast,
when Christ, the Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.
This is the night when first you saved our ancestors:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!
This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our redeemer?
Father how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
Of this night scripture says: "The night will be as clear as the day: it will become my light, my joy."
The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy: it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth and we are reconciled with God!
Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night, receive our morning sacrifice of praise, your church's solemn offering.
Accept this Easter candle—a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honour of God.
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night.
May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all the earth, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Light of Christ

"The Light of Christ!"
"Thanks be to God!"

St Philip's Anglican Church,
cnr Moorhouse and Macpherson Streets, O'Connor, ACT 2602.