The Easter Vigil is without doubt one of the most poignant and symbolic events in the entire liturgical calendar. It has everything really; fire, candles, water, darkness, light. The readings tell us the story of God’s faithfulness throughout the history of salvation. We are invited into this story because it’s our story. The elements of fire and water contrast each other alongside darkness and light. It is a truly a feast for both our physical and spiritual senses.
The Vigil begins in darkness. The Easter fire, lit and blessed outside, becomes a light that embraces us all as it moves purposefully from candle to candle. It becomes for each of us a personal gift, a torch to light our way in whatever way we need it to. It illuminates, warms and enlightens as one candle lights another, passing on the message of hope that this great night brings.
The incredible thing is that this is happening all over the world! I’d love to see a Google Earth image that showed it, as slowly candle by candle, church by church, town by town, country by country, continent by continent the light of Easter is passed on from person to person. Incredible. That’s the power of the message of the resurrection. It has the power to illumine the entire world but for that to happen it requires us to do three things:
Firstly, it requires us to hold the message of Easter hope as something deeply sacred and valuable.
Secondly, it requires us to receive this message in such a way as to allow it to enflame our hearts, ignite our imaginations and enlighten our minds.
And finally, it requires us to pass the flame on to others; slowly, gently and compassionately so that they may receive it, value it and begin to share it.
This sacred night is a night like no other. By the time we have reached it, we have journeyed together for 40 days; reflecting, praying, trusting and stumbling along the way. We’ve encountered challenges and opportunities, joys and sorrows, compassion and pain and yet we’ve made it to this most sacred of nights. We’ve made it to the point whereby we’ve been able to gather in safety and peace to receive this torch of hope. The challenge now is to take this torch, this light of hope and peace, and bring it into the darker places we encounter in ourselves and in the world.
Today our world is often a dark and terrifying place. Every news report testifies to this as we hear of more and more violence hatred often manifest through disregard for life, peace and our common home, the Earth. This a dynamic that can get us down. We can feel overwhelmed by it all and powerless in the face of it. This can be a lonely place to be. However, as Christians we are called to be people of hope and children of the resurrection. In truth, we are never really powerless because Christ’s resurrection has shown us that the violence, hatred and death, all too prevalent in the world, will not have the final say. Jesus has passed through all of that and has risen transformed and glorious so that we may have live in the light of hope, peace and joy.
The great spiritual writer and teacher, Ron Rolheiser OMI, remarks that in the Gospel accounts of the resurrection and post resurrection we hear of people either being told to go to Galilee or Jerusalem to meet Jesus. Apart from being geographical locationsGalilee and Jerusalem are also places of deep symbolic value in the Gospels. Galilee was the fertile place and the place of plenty. It was the place of preaching, teaching and miracles, the place where Jesus called his disciples and gathered his followers. Jerusalem on the other hand was the place of ridicule, accusation, condemnation, hatred, violence and death.
In many ways the core message of this night is that wherever we are right now be it a place of plenty or a place of darkness; Christ is there, waiting for us to meet him. Our invitation this Easter is to go, do not be afraid and, if we do, we will meet him there.
(Easter Vigil Mass, Rochestown Cork, 2017)