Easter Vigil, 2017
Yesterday, the Cross was carried into the Cathedral and three times Father James sang “Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world.” Three times we responded, “Come let us worship.” It seemed that all was darkness, Jesus had died and all was darkness. We could have easily gone into despair at the words of Jesus “It is accomplished……and bowing his head he gave up his Spirit.” Maybe we identified with the despair of Mary His Mother as she saw Jesus nailed, beaten, mocked, ridiculed and dead on a cross…she would certainly have been in darkness.
This Liturgy started in darkness ……….. then we lit a fire and three times heard the words “The Light of Christ’ and we again made three responses “Thanks be to God.”
Someone by the name of Tom Shepard, I don’t know who he is, in writing about Easter said, “When I was a child, the Easter Vigil was a profound event for me. I didn’t know what was going on, but I did know they were doing everything I liked. They were playing with fire. They were playing with water. They were saying things I didn’t understand. He was blowing on the water. He was splashing the water on people. The air was full of smoke. It was dark and it was scary. It was everything that I loved.”
Tonight is everything that we love…not just playing with fire and water, or smoke billowing all over the Church, all of those and many other things tonight are deeply symbolic and have a profound impact if we are ready to experience them deeply. The last few days have given us many powerful symbols, symbols that speak to our imagination and move our hearts.
This Easter Vigil tells the story of our salvation, the story of coming out of darkness into light. That’s our story – the first words of the Bible “God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep…..
That was the beginning of creation, now the Rising of Jesus from the grave gives us a new creation…….we are new people who live in the light,
It was DARK for Jesus too, not just an absence of light, but the darkness of despair, his friends had all left him and now it seemed like God had deserted him too. Remember the Passion Story from last Sunday, Palm Sunday – from St Matthew’s Gospel: “From the 6th hour there was darkness over all the land …….at about the 9th hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘My God, My God, why have you deserted me?”
Naturally life will seem dark for us at times, however we can never stay in the darkness “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”
As this Easter candle was lit I prayed…….“May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our minds and hearts.”
Then the light began to spread bit by bit. Light slowly spread through the Cathedral, a beautiful soft light of flickering candles, the Light of Christ began to spread over the darkness, and slowly to give us the message that it is no longer dark. We cannot live in darkness or despair. Christ is with us, risen from the dead and will never leave us.
“This is the night….. said the great Hymn of Easter Praise
We pray that this candle, hallowed by the honour of your name, may persevere undimmed, to overturn the darkness of this night. May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star
Will this light be found still burning in our hearts? Actually, this light will go out. But at our Baptism we were given a Baptismal Candle- as will these people tonight be gifted with light hearing the words “Receive the Light of Christ…”
We take the Light of Christ with us wherever we go, especially to our homes and families?
Every year at the Mass of Chrism I am moved by the final prayer which says; “Become the pleasing fragrance of Christ…” referring of course to the perfumed Chrism we are anointed with at Baptism, Confirmation and for we priest in Holy Orders.
“Become the pleasing fragrance of Christ…” we are that every day and in every situation. Every day we are also Christ’s light to others. There is a well known quotation of St Catherine of Sienna: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
God means you and I to be the light of the Risen Jesus to the world around us.