April 4: Easter Vigil 2010 Year C
Readings: Acts 10:34.37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9
Tonight we proclaim and celebrate the great mystery of our salvation accomplished in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Easter Vigil is the longest single celebration in the Roman liturgy. In its fullest form, it is intended to begin at dusk and conclude at dawn. In other words, it is an all night event. Easter Vigil celebration, as we may have noticed already tonight, is full of symbolism, and I simply want to highlight some of the symbols to help us reflect on the mystery we celebrate tonight. There are four sets of symbols that run through Easter Vigil: light and darkness, life and death, slavery and liberation, water that destroys life and life-giving water. I would like to dwell a little more on the first set. We started this celebration in the darkness for a very important reason. Darkness is the first movement of Easter Vigil liturgy, in order to help us reflect on what it means to be in darkness, both physical and spiritual – a theme we have met during the season of Lent. Tonight, the contrast between darkness and light is highlighted in the fire-lighting ritual that is only a preparation for the lighting of the new Paschal Candle. That lighting symbolizes the dispelling of our spiritual darkness by Christ, the risen Lord. The celebrant used the following two prayers: “Make this new fire holy, and inflame us with new hope”, and then again before the procession in the Church, the celebrant prayed, “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”. To underline the dispelling of darkness, our lit candles flickered to life in the darkness as we processed together singing the “the Light of Christ”. Towards the end of the Exultet, we hail the Paschal Candle praying that its light “mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night.” Tonight, dear friends, the Church uses many dramatic liturgical symbols to celebrate the mystery of our salvation: light and darkness life and death, slavery and liberation, water that destroys life and life-giving water. The dramatic symbolism of burial with Christ and rising with him is highlighted in the blessing of the Baptismal Water, when the Easter Candle is dipped three times in the water. The baptism of those who have been preparing themselves in our parish is a clear expression of that mystery of dying and rising with Christ.
The resurrection of Christ ushers in a newness of life, a new spring-time in our faith. The elaborate liturgy we celebrate tonight invites us not only to remember the history of God's saving works and blessings upon all creation, but also to recall our personal participation in that mystery, the participation in the newness of life, that began with our baptism into Christ. The Liturgy of the Word has helped us to recall that history, and offered us new insights on the meaning of our personal participation, and I just want to highlight Paul's words in Romans 6 inviting us to recall the most important day of our life, the day we were formally incorporated into Christ through baptism. “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into his death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life”. Tonight, dear friends, as we reaffirm our baptismal commitment, let us pray that the event we celebrate, the Resurrection, may lead us to live as people deeply touched by our faith in the resurrection, and proclaim throughout this season that Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!
©2010 John S. Mbinda