Teens from across the Archdiocese gather in their parishes to stand over the tomb of Christ and to read from the Scriptures keeping vigil from the end of Friday Vespers until the Resurrection Services of Pascha.

Great Friday Vigil History

by Fr. Joseph Purpura and Jonathan Sourial

  1. Who created the Great Friday vigil (as a teen event)? The Great Friday Vigil is an ancient practice of the Orthodox Church.  It is customary that when an Orthodox Christian dies that one comes and prays over their body.  Many of the clergy of this Archdiocese experienced the Great Friday Vigil as young men studying for the Priesthood at St Vladimir’s Seminary.  Fr Joseph Purpura, current Chairman of the Department of Youth Ministry, well remembers this practice while he was a teenager studying at St Vladimir’s and remembers bringing this practice to the teens and families in his first parish in the late 1970s.  Other clergy may have done the same in their parishes.  Fr Joseph Purpura, while the Eastern Region Teen SOYO Spiritual Advisor promoted this practice in the Region and then as the North American Council Spiritual Advisor in the mid-1980s formalized this as a SOYO ministry.

2.Why was the great Friday Vigil created? It is an ancient custom to keep watch or vigil over the body, as a sign of respect.  The reading of the psalms is an ancient practice. It was started with Teen SOYO as a way of restoring this practice to the Church and as a means of helping teens have a deeper experience of the life giving death and Resurrection of our Lord.

  1. What was going on in the Archdiocese and SOYO that the Great Friday Vigil was needed? SOYO was growing in its devotion to Christ and the Church and this was a natural experience of the love of our teens for the Church and our Lord and the Vigil was one more means of our teens spending greater time in the Church in preparation for the Resurrection of our Lord and as a means to deepen their faith in the Lord.  The teens were also looking for ways to further express their love for Christ and the Vigil was a natural expression of that love and commitment to Christ.
  1. When was the Great Friday Vigil created (again as a teen event)? Formally in the 1980s, as a teen Event
  1. Would you say the vigil was supposed to be an educational event pr more of a spiritual event? It is both.  The Vigil is certainly spiritual in that as the teens keep Vigil at the tomb ,they worship and glorify Christ.  It is a time for the teens to express their love for the Lord.  Teens hear the and read the Scripture during the Vigil both as a spiritual endeavor and as an educational event.