EASTER VIGIL – 2022 – Ennis Cathedral
Tonight we celebrate the great mystery of our salvation accomplished in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
The Church uses dramatic liturgical symbols to celebrate our salvation:
- light and darkness,
- life and death,
- water and fire,
- slavery and liberation.
Death to Life in Baptismal Waters
The symbolism of burial with Christ and rising with him is highlighted in the blessing of the Baptismal Water, where the Easter Candle is dipped three times.
Baptism – Recovering lost humanity
Baptism is a clear expression of that mystery of dying and rising with Christ. “To be baptised is to recover the humanity that God first intended”.
Darkness into Light
Tonight’s celebration starts in the darkness for a good reason; to help us reflect on what it means to be in darkness, both physical and spiritual.
Darkness and Light
Tonight, the contrast between darkness and light is highlighted in the fire-lighting that is a preparation for the lighting of the new Paschal Candle. The fire and candles are our recognition that Christ has won the victory over the power of darkness and death. The Easter Candle serves on this night and for the rest of the year as a symbol of Christ the true Light of the World.
A New Creation
The first thing we hear in tonight’s Gospel, is that the women go to the tomb very early in the morning, on the first day of the week. This is key to tonight’s gospel. Luke is telling us that those women were experiencing the first day of a whole new creation, a new world order and we can be part of that new creation through faith in Jesus who overcame death.
It is no coincidence that the women to whom the resurrection is first revealed are the ones who were with Christ on Calvary. It is precisely because we are baptized into his death that we are also immersed in His resurrection, according to St Paul.
Symbol of the Rock
When Jesus was laid in the tomb on Good Friday, a rock was rolled across the entrance. The rock symbolised the end of all the hope that was represented by Jesus’ life. For those who knew him as Rabbi and who had left everything to follow him, the rock across the tomb must have been pure despair. The women on the morning of the ‘first day of the week’ wonder ‘who will roll away the stone’?
Rolling back the stone of Heaviness of Heart
It has always seemed to me that their question was not just about recovering Jesus’ body, but about dealing with the heaviness in their hearts. Across our parish, in our country and in our world there are people, our neighbours and friends, who ask that same question ‘Who will roll away the stone for us?’ They experience heaviness in their lives because of bereavement, the burden of ill health, the continuation of the pandemic, the war in eastern Europe, the sad reality of violence in our society or some other situation which has taken light out of their lives. Who will roll back the stone?
Recognising that others roll back the stone!
The answer, as the women discovered, is that the stone is rolled away by others. Jesus is the one who lets light into the darkness of the tomb. The women encountered an angel who told them that Jesus was not there, he had risen and they were to tell the disciples to find Him in Galilee.
Gallilee – Coming Home
Why Galilee? Galilee is home. Jesus wants us to come Home to ourselves. Galilee is where he began His public ministry, where he was accepted. Galilee is contrasted to Jerusalem where he was confronted, judged, rejected and finally crucified. The risen Lord wants his disciples now to come back to Galilee, to begin this new creation of God’s unconditional love manifested through forgiveness and compassion.
We are a Resurrection People!
Remember, the angel points away from the tomb – He is not here. Easter gives us the joyful message that we are a resurrection people. This means that we are not meant to bury ourselves in the tomb of our hurts, shortcomings, failures, despair, or doubts. Instead, we are expected to live joyful and peaceful lives, experiencing the real presence of the resurrected Lord. We can now set out on our own personal healing journeys, home to ourselves, with the power of the Spirit of the Risen Jesus to help us.
The Eucharist that we celebrate together on this night of all nights is food for our journey into this new creation that God has brought out of the death and resurrection of Jesus. May we participate in it with faith, and open ourselves to its transforming power.
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!