Questions about the Easter Vigil

Questions about the Easter Vigil
In recent days I have received several enquiries about aspects of the Easter Vigil celebration. Here are two of them and the replies I gave.
Q. At the Easter Vigil we sing the ‘Litany of the Saints’. What is a litany and is the Litany of the Saints the only litany we ever use?
A. ‘Litany’ is the name given to a repetitive form of communal prayer in which the assembly sings or recites a common response to a series of petitions or acclamations sung by a cantor or proclaimed by a reader. It comes from the Greek word litaneia which means petition or supplication.
The Litany of the Saints is the oldest litany continually in use in the West, and is the model for all others. It calls on the Blessed Virgin Mary and a list of prophets, patriarchs, angels, apostles, saints, confessors and virgins to ‘pray for us’.
The Litany of the Saints is sung during the Easter Vigil before the Blessing of Water and the Rite of Baptism, at the Sacrament of Ordination and in the Dedication of Churches. A much shorter version is included after the Prayer of the Faithful in the Rite of Baptism for Children.
Other litanies that are used in the Order of Mass are the Penitential Rite with its ‘Lord/ Christ have mercy’ response and the ‘Lamb of God’ which is sung during the breaking and pouring out of the consecrated bread and wine.
Litanies are also included in celebrations of the Anointing of the Sick and at the Funeral Vigil. The Litany of the Holy Name and the Litany of the Sacred Heart may be used during Eucharistic Adoration. The Litany of Loretto and the Litany of St Joseph are no longer part of public worship and are used in private devotion.
Q. Could you please explain the reason for omitting “This is the Word of the Lord” after the third reading (from Exodus) at the Easter Vigil?
A. The third reading at the Easter Vigil is from the book of Exodus, beginning with verse 15 of chapter 14 and finishing after the first verse of chapter 15. If you look up this passage in the bible, you will see that the part of Exodus 15 that follows it is set out as poetry; it is the song of praise and thanks that the people of Israel sang to God after their escape.
The last words of the third reading at the Easter Vigil are “It was then that Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song in honour of the Lord.” The responsorial psalm after this reading is an excerpt from this song of liberation and is not taken from the book of psalms as it usually is.
In other words, the third reading and the psalm that follows it at the Easter Vigil are one continuous passage from scripture, which is why it is not interrupted with ‘This is the Word of the Lord’. It is important that and the musicians begin the psalm as soon as the reader says the last words of the reading to emphasise the continuity of the two.

Elizabeth Harrington