We begin in darkness outside, reminding us of the spiritual darkness in the human soul without the light of Christ. Apart from Christ, we experience sin and death. The Easter candle, symbolizing the Risen Christ, is lit, and Jesus is proclaimed as “Christ our Light.” The faithful process into the church building to share in the feast of Christ’s word and Sacramental presence. Christ is alive and LORD, present in us, with us, for us. We represent all of humanity, for whom Christ died. Adult converts are received into the Church on this night. We renew our vows to be faithful to Christ unto death, and receive His promise for each of us to share eternally in His love and life. What more, or what better, could be offered to us in life? “Apart from You I want nothing on earth; God is my portion forever.”
The Easter celebration continues on Sunday morning, then through the entire Easter season, and indeed, on every Sunday of the year. “Christ is Risen from the dead. Alleluia, Alleluia.” That means, “Praise the LORD!” “O give thanks to the LORD for He is good; for his mercy endures forever.” For you. For me. For all. We are not members of a cult, a select group of “the elect,” of “saints.” Rather, we are individually and together representatives of all of humankind, created and now restored in Christ Jesus. And each of us is a unique creation of God, requiring our free participation in God to find fulfillment and happiness now and beyond the reaches of death.
The Easter Vigil and Masses represent to attentive minds what is experienced within the Christian soul: the presence of God in Christ, breathing renewing life into us. When the Pascal (Easter) candle is placed in the darkened church on the night of the Vigil (Holy Saturday night), and we are assembled in low light, we hear the message of Christ Risen proclaimed in the words of the ancient prayer known as the Exultet. Preferably this hymn of praise should be sung, but this priest will read it to you instead, so that you may concentrate on the meaning of the words, and not on the poor quality of my voice. We are not trying to offer you a performance, but a presentation of Christ alive and LORD.
In the Exultet we hear tantalizing words: “O happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam! What would life be, if Christ had not died for us?” (Or, in the contemporary translation, “Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.”) Truly, what would you be, who would you be, if Jesus Christ were not alive and dwelling in you? What would your life be, without God’s life-giving presence? What would your life amount to, if you lived self-enclosed, entombed in your own dying self? How would you endure the trials of life, if human life were not only very fleeting (which it is), but essentially meaningless? Apart from Christ, what could you know but passing pleasures as the sands of your hourglass ran out? “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Such is a life apart from the Resurrected.
“Now I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” So writes a man who experienced Christ flowing into his soul, living within his consciousness. Christ is divine Life in the mind and spirit of a human being. And “this Life is the light of men,” “but human beings loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” To the one acknowledging his or her betrayals, sins, lies, emptiness, one hears by faith the voice of Jesus: “Come to me, you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will refresh you.” Those who prefer darkness to light are too busy making money, or “having fun,” or planning some evil stunt than to drop whatever they have at hand and welcome the rising Son of God, illuminating one’s heart and mind.
“May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your heart and mind in union with Christ Jesus our LORD.” Amen.
Blessed Easter one and all.