Sunday, April 16, 2006

Last Evening's Easter Vigil

What was begun on Maundy Thursday came to a climax late yesterday, on Holy Saturday evening as we "watched and waited" for the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ during the Vigil of Easter. We celebrated the climax in the Vigil's profound contrasts between darkness and light, death and life, chaos and order, slavery and freedom.

In the early darkness, after lighting the Pascal Candle from the new fire, we entered the church as the cantor (holding the Pascal Candle) sang, "The light of Christ!" and we echoed, "Thanks be to God!"

After the Pascal Candle was placed in its stand, Pastor made the great Easter Proclamation, and again we sang again and again, "Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Jesus Christ our King is arisen!" We praised the heavenly Father for this holy blessed night that "dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, and brings mourners joy . . . when heaven is wedded to earth and we are reconciled with God!" We prayed that the Morning Star, our Christ, "shed his peaceful light on all creation."

Then it was time for listening to the mighty acts of God as rehearsed in the Hebrew Scriptures. We listened and watched the stories of the creation of the world, the Exodus, the prophetic voice of Isaiah, the dry-bones vision of Ezekial. The second cantor, with her lovely pure singing, led us in praise as we sang psalms to God. At last everyone lifted up his and her voice, lauding God with the Benedicite Omnia Opera ("The Song of the Three Young Men" from the Book of Daniel).

Gathering closer to the holy table, while professing our faith, we remembered our baptisms and the vows we made when we entered our new creation, our exodus, that is, when we were buried with Christ and given new birth with Him in the Resurrection. Blessed again us with water, we confessed our faith in the Apostles' Creed. Then we listened to more of the Word of God: St. Paul spoke to us from his Letter to the Romans; the resurrected Jesus spoke to us in the witness of St. Mark Gospel.

With joy we celebrated the Eucharist, glorifying God with the whole company of heavenm singing the Sanctus, remembering all that He has done for us in Christ, thanking the heavenly Father for the sending of His Son, offering ourselves to Him in gratitude and joyful thanksgiving; and then, after asking the Most Holy Spirit to bless and brood over our bread and wine, we received our Lord's gift of Himself in the sharing of Holy Communion.

In the Vigil the Holy Trinity blessed us with holy proclamation and life-giving sacraments, gifts for and of the Church's worship; June and I left, happy to be baptized, happy to be saved for new life, happy to be among the community of the faithful, happy to welcome once again Jesus into our lives. Like the Pascal Candle, now to be light again and again among all of us who are coming forth from death, we ask God to find the flames of our lives and the lives of all Christians burning, always burning, always giving light.


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