The Great Vigil of Easter at the Memorial Church, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, is a time for new beginnings in the Christian faith, including baptisms. Its spiritual meanings are illuminated through the window of experience that the participants have shared.

Marina Connelly ’12 said, “It is a miraculous point of beginning and regeneration, a ritual that extends far beyond the bounds of the Yard.”

Recounting the joy of presenting his daughter for baptism during the vigil, Alexis Goltra ’92 said, “My wife and I wanted to baptize Josephine at Harvard because we feel so connected to Memorial Church. I know of no other ministry that can simultaneously challenge and inspire one’s faith so profoundly.”

Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies and a member of the Divinity School faculty, said, “To me, the Great Vigil of Easter is the most dramatic liturgy of the Christian year. I love it both as a Christian and as a historian of religion. There we are, midnight, outside the darkened church. The fire is kindled, we light our candles and enter the sanctuary as the story of creation from Genesis is read, then the crossing of the Red Sea, and on to the rest of the great narrative, right to the empty tomb. Symbolically, it’s a return to the beginning.”

The Great Vigil of Easter

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

  • Lighting the way

    Lighting the way

    Dorothy Austin (from left), Sedgwick Associate Minister in the Memorial Church; Peter J. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church; and Martin Wallner '11, verger, light candles from a bonfire during "The Great Vigil of Easter" at the Memorial Church.

  • Vigilant observers

    Vigilant observers

    Eck, who is also the Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society, and Marina Connelly '12, a member of the Harvard University Choir, witness the lighting of the Easter bonfire.

  • Sharing the light

    Sharing the light

    Walter Klyce '10 (from left) and Rob Mark, McDonald Fellow at the Memorial Church, light a candle during the vigil.

  • Father and son

    Father and son

    Michael Sun '97 holds his son, Michael James Sun Jr., before the baby is baptized.

  • Easter vigil

    Easter vigil

    The congregation and procession are illuminated by candlelight.

  • A family affair

    A family affair

    Jonathan Page, Epps Fellow and assistant chaplain at the Memorial Church, baptizes Josephine Zoe Goltra while family members Josie Amery (from left, wearing pearls), Alexis Goltra '92 (father of Josephine), and Lynne Goltra (mother of Josephine) watch attentively.