Q: Is the time given in the diocesan bulletin for the beginning of the Easter Vigil correct: 8pm? Sunset is 7:51pm. It will still be light. Does the church offer a definition of the time of “dark”?
A: Here’s what the Roman Missal says at #3 of its pages pertaining to the Vigil:
The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil must take place during the night, so that it begins after nightfall and ends before daybreak on the Sunday.
I think it’s deliberately vague to allow some flexibility. Some people prefer to interpret it as beginning when it is truly dark outside. Others believe that if you’re turning on lamps at home and drivers have activated headlights on their cars, then it’s dark enough to light the Easter fire.
So, yes, 8 pm is defensible, and in fact that’s when we’re starting at St. Anthony’s this year. But you may choose a later time if you like. Conception Abbey usually starts at 3 or 4 a.m.