The celebration of the holiest of holydays begins with the very rich liturgy of the Easter Vigil. The forty days of the Lenten observance led us to celebrate the Good Friday event where the cross of Christ was the focus of our contemplation and prayer. But the cross and the Good Friday event are without meaning if there is no Easter to follow. Thus, St. Paul in his Letter to the Corinthians professes that, if there is no resurrection of Christ, our very faith is empty and all our preaching vain! (1 Cor 15: 14)
With our celebration of the Easter Vigil we celebrate all that our faith entails. The celebration begins with a “liturgy of light:” in darkness a “new” fire is blessed symbolizing the light of Christ which dispels all darkness of evil. The light that is Christ is “enthroned” in the Easter candle while the congregation hold their lighted candles and listen to the glorious Easter Exsultet, the traditional song which proclaims the saving action of God’s love that overcomes human selfishness: “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer. O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour when Christ rose from the underworld. This is the night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.” In response to all that God’s saving love is for us, we renew the promises made in baptism, the first sacrament of our faith.
The words we repeat in the renewal of our baptismal promises are words of faith that are constantly nourished by the word of God in the Scriptures. Thus, on this holy night of nights the wonderful history of our salvation is read from selected passages in the bible. It is a history which begins with the creation of the world.
The story continues and we recall the centuries of human failures of disobedience and disrespect towards God’s graciousness. But even as sin abounds, the loving mercy of God abounds all the more.
The readings from Paul’s Letter to the Romans and of Mark’s account of the wonderment of Christ’s loving disciples at the announcement of the Lord’s resurrection bring the whole history of salvation to its conclusion for us today.
Contemplating the readings of the Easter Vigil we are invited to celebrate today’s Eucharist in a very special way. We are invited to join Mary Magdalene and the other disciples with deep wonder at all that Lord had done for us, and indeed for all humanity. The whole history of salvation is a history of God’s love for us despite the constant failures of men and women to respond with grateful love,
In a very true sense, we can say that the Easter Vigil resembles an annual spiritual retreat. Contemplating the readings of the word of God gives us matter for our reflection; the renewal of our baptismal promises constitutes our response, a renewal of our commitment to be faithful followers of Christ. And finally at the Eucharistic table we receive the Risen Lord in the bread and wine that continue to nourish and strengthen us as we live our faith in the Galilees of our lives. Salvation history continues in all of us. Alleluia.