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Brooklyn_Museum_-_Mary_Magdalene_and_the_Holy_Women_at_the_Tomb_(Madeleine_et_les_saintes_femmes_au_tombeau)_-_James_Tissot

From Wikipedia.

‘Christ is risen!’

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the moment captured as beautifully as at the Easter Vigil Mass I went to last evening. We were all gathered together in the dark church, lights completely off. Then, in the narthex, a fire! The officiating priest said a blessing and prepared an enormous candle, speaking about Christ and cutting His symbols into the candle; the cross and the alpha and omega.

Then he carried the candle into the nave. Light came into the darkness. Lumen Christi, the light of Christ! Everyone was carrying a candle, and now some of the altar boys lit their candles from the priest’s candle and went to light the candles of people standing in the pews. In moments, the darkness was ablaze with light taken from the big candle representing Christ.

Then, the priest sung the exultet, an Easter proclamation of seriously epic proportions. He sung in Latin, but here is a taste of it in English:

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

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.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

(The Roman Missal)

But then, the candles were extinguished. We sat in darkness as seven stories are read and Psalms are sung from the Old Testament, from Creation to the prophets, foretelling the coming of the Lord.

Suddenly, on the singing of Gloria in excelsis deo, all the lights came on in the church, all at once. Flowers were put out, bells were rung and everything came to life again. Christ is risen! A reading from Paul explained how in baptism we die and come to life again with Christ. A reading from the Gospel of Luke told us how Jesus’ tomb was found empty and angels announced that he was alive to the three woman who came to the tomb. These women went on to tell Jesus’ disciples…

This process has continued down the ages, just as not everyone lit their candle directly from the large candle, but received light from others who had received light. And so it is appropriate that the latest fruits of that process of telling are received into the Church at Easter, during this very vigil!

I was blessed to be among that number. Three individuals were baptized and four more (including myself and my wife) were received into full communion with the Church. Immediately afterward we were confirmed with chrism and the laying on of hands. Immediately after that, we received our first Holy Communion, received Jesus. This was not done on our own; all there who had been baptized (including us) renewed our baptismal vows. When we were received into the Church, our wonderful sponsors who helped teach and guide us had their hands on our shoulders. All there who had been confirmed received communion together.

Alleluia! This is what makes this story special. Jesus’ story, the Easter story, is not just someone else’s story. It can become your story too; a story of death and resurrection, the old life gone forever, exchanged for a new, more glorious life with Christ and His family. Christ is risen indeed!

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  1. Pingback: Coming Home (Part 4) | Iesus et Ecclesia

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