Tonight we celebrate the central doctrine of our faith –the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We do so by lighting the Easter Fire and by making the Exsultet Proclamation. We listen also to selections from scripture containing the essential elements of salvation history.
We do all these things to stress the importance of this event and to recognise the great significance of the Resurrection of the Lord. And, of course, we celebrate the Eucharist; that unique meal which is a summation of the whole Pascal Mystery. We share the Body and Blood of the Lord and strengthen our union with each other as members of Christ’s Mystical Body and together receive these precious elements as a pledge of the Kingdom of God.
This great celebration is the highlight of the Liturgical Year and a cause of joy to all believers. Through it we come to an ever greater appreciation of the great love shown to us by God and we renew our faith in Jesus Christ and in his Church.
In this Vigil ceremony we celebrate one of the most fundamental of all the Christian virtues: that of hope. We must not think that Christian Hope is the same as the common or garden variety in which we merely long for some future good. Christian Hope is not merely wishing that the future will be better or desiring an improvement in our circumstances.
No, Christian Hope together with its close ally Faith means that we have the confident expectation that we will experience salvation and so reach heaven. This is no mere pious wish for a better future. Rather this is faith that the promises of God will be fulfilled; this is trusting in the fact of God’s desire to save us.
All this is expressed in the events of the Pascal Mystery; namely in the events of Christ’s death and resurrection on that first Easter Day. These are above all concrete proofs of God’s love for mankind.
While on the one hand we must stress that this is something different to certainty, for we cannot ever know for sure that we will actually be saved. It is on the other hand about as close to certainty as we can ever get in this earthly life.
We have, of course, to play our own part. Each of us has to shun sin and embrace the Gospel as our way of life. Without doing this we cannot ever achieve our goal of arriving at heaven’s door. We need to feed the life of our soul through frequent prayer and the celebration of the sacraments; for these are the keys to everlasting life, these are the stepping stones to heaven.
One of the key elements of this Easter Vigil ceremony is that of light. We begin with the lighting of the Easter Fire and we bring this new light into the darkened Church as we hear the wonderful proclamation of our salvation sung in the words of that great prayer we call the Exsultet.
This is the Light of Christ which enlightens the darkness of sin and ignorance. Christ is truly our light, not merely in physical form but also mentally and spiritually because he enlightens our minds and hearts. He illumines our world and he shows us the way to travel on our great pilgrimage of faith through our life on earth.
Christ enlightens our minds; he teaches us how to seek the good and shows us how to live our lives in conformity with the Gospel. This is real enlightenment because above all he shows us that the Father is our creator and that he loves us so much that he is prepared to send his Son, Jesus, into our world to give his life for our salvation.
This is Good News indeed; this is the best possible thing that we could ever hear. This Good News brings peace to our minds and balm to our souls. This is transformative for our lives and the lives of those around us.
So we celebrate this Vigil with joy in our hearts, with love in our lives. We celebrate the fact of our salvation and we commit ourselves to live our lives in conformity with God’s will and in a way which will bring glory and honour to him.
May God fill your hearts with his love, may he permeate your lives to the fullest possible extent; may God pour out his Easter blessings upon you and fill you with his peace.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket