VIGIL (Lat. vigtiia, "watch"), in the Christian Church, the eve of a festival. The use of the word is, however, late, the vigiliae (pernoctationes, ira.vwx(Jt>K) having originally been the services, consisting of prayers, hymns, processions and sometimes the eucharist, celebrated on the preceding night in preparation for the feast. The oldest of the vigils is that of Easter Eve, those of Pentecost and Christmas being instituted somewhat later. With the Easter vigil the eucharist was specially associated, and baptism with that of Pentecost (see WHITSUNDAY). The abuses connected with nocturnal vigils 1 led to their being attacked, especially by Vigilentius of Barcelona (c. 400), against whom Jerome fulminated in this as in other matters. The custom, however, increased, vigils being instituted for the other festivals, including those of saints.
In the middle ages the nocturnal vigtiia were, except in the monasteries, gradually discontinued, matins and vespers on the preceding day, with fasting, taking their place. In the Roman Catholic Church the vigil is now usually celebrated on the morning of the day preceding the festival, except at Christmas, when a midnight mass is celebrated, and on Easter Eve. These vigils are further distinguished as privileged and unprivileged. The former (except that of the Epiphany) have special offices; in the latter the vigil is merely commemorated.
The Church of England has reverted to early custom in so fa.r as only " Easter Even " is distinguished by a special collect, gospel and epistle. The other vigils are recognized in the calendar (including those of the saints) and the rubric directs that " the collect appointed for any Holy-day that hath a Vigil or Eve, shall be said at the Evening Service next before."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)