Homily: Easter Vigil, 2014

Easter Vigil

19th April, 2014

 Rom 6:3-11; Psalm 118:1-23; Matt 28:1-10

Matthew's account is the most dramatic of the four resurrection narratives. Mary Magdalene and one other Mary go to the tomb. An earthquake takes place, and the angel rolls back the stone and says ‘He is not here, he has risen as he said he would’. The resurrection has taken place already, but the angel commissions the women to go tell the disciples of Jesus' resurrection and to let them know that they shall see him in Galilee.

That there they will find the risen Christ in Galilee, is important. Since Galilee was the "doorway to the world" in the thinking of Isaiah, Jesus, and the Gospel of Matthew, the light of the gospel is then for the whole world, not just the Jewish people, not just the original disciples, and not just for us. It is to be taken to the world.

Like the women, we are filled with awe. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are dead to sin and reborn in Christ through Baptism, to life, a new life. Although we celebrate this on Holy Saturday evening, it is this dramatic Easter Vigil liturgy that marks the beginning of Easter. The liturgical celebration makes use of two eloquent signs.

First there is the fire that becomes light. The celebrant lights the Paschal candle from the new fire, saying: ‘May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds’. The candle is then processed through the church and lifted three different times as we sing the Light of Christ; Thanks be to God! The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World. Next follows the glorious Easter song of the Catholic Church: the Exsultet. This magnificent hymn, which is remarkable for its lyric beauty and profound symbolism, announces the dignity and meaning of the mystery of Easter. It tells of man's sin, of God's mercy, and of the great love of the Redeemer for mankind, admonishing us in turn to thank the Trinity for all the graces that have been lavished upon us.

The second sign is water. On the one hand, it recalls the waters of the Red Sea, decline and death and the mystery of the Cross. But now it is presented to us as water, a life-giving element amid the dryness. Thus it becomes the image of the sacrament of baptism, through which we become sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During this time in our liturgy, the Easter water is blessed and new members are brought into the Church through baptism, and we are blessed with water and all renew our baptismal promises. And we recall St Paul’s words to the Romans: you too must consider yourselves ….. alive for God in Christ Jesus!(6:11)

The readings help us meditate on the wonderful works of God for his people since the beginning of time. The Mass resumes with the special prayers inserted during the Eucharist Prayer. The whole Church is called to join at the sacrificial table that Christ prepared for us through his death and resurrection. The Mass ends with the glorious ’Go in peace, Alleluia, Alleluia!! Lord, make us Easter people, men and women of light, filled with the fire of your love. Amen

Bishop Leslie Tomlinson