Easter Vigil 2014

The introductory words to tonight’s liturgy tell us that tonight we celebrate the Passover of the Lord. And the great Easter hymn, the Exsultet, tells us that this is our Passover feast when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain, whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers. This is meant is summon images of the Passover in ancient Egypt when the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses were saved from slavery. The houses of the Israelites were marked with the blood of the Passover lamb so that the angel of death would pass over them. So it is with us. In the words of the Exsultet “This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and together grow in holiness. This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave. Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.”

These words sum up the message of Easter. Through the cross and resurrection of Jesus, we are washed free of sin, restored by grace, and the doors of heaven are opened to us. Death, which is the consequence of sin in the world, is the final prison, the final enslaver. It is not only death itself but the fear of death that imprisons us. Sin causes us to narrow our vision, to limit ourselves and our hopes to this world. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that God has so much more for us.

The Exsultet bursts with the energy and joy of the resurrection. All of creation is called to rejoice. “Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels! Exult all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our king, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation! Rejoice, O earth, in shining spendour, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes forever! Rejoice, O Mother Church, exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

The whole of creation is meant to be filled with new life. It is a happy circumstance that the Easter season parallels spring and the new life of spring. After a winter like the one we have experienced, every one of us is probably thirsting for spring and the renewal of nature. This renewal is a token of the total renewal of creation that the resurrection of Jesus brings.

Let this place resound with joy! Do we feel that joy? “For Christ has ransomed us with his blood and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father.” Only Jesus can conquer the power of sin and the devil! Only Jesus can restore creation to its wholeness. What a Passover; what a Passover Lamb! Jesus came into Jerusalem those fateful days to give new meaning to everything. Let us consecrate our churches, our homes, our lives with His Blood.

It is in this faith and power that we renew the church tonight. We have waited throughout Lent to prepare to celebrate this feast. We have waited and prepared ourselves through Holy Week, and through readings and prayer tonight. In a few minutes, we will prepare ourselves by renewing our baptismal promises. We renew ourselves through sign and sacrament tonight, through the energy of the new Fire, the light of the Paschal Candle, through the waters of baptism and through the bread and the wine of the Eucharist. Easter is our Passover! It is the heart and soul of our faith. Therefore, in earnestness and in joy, let us keep the feast.

Fr. Brian Spence