The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

posted in: Easter, Homilies | 0

We should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection,
through whom we are saved and delivered.

That was the entrance antiphon for this great Triduum of God’s mercy which began on Thursday night, as we gathered for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It rightly focused these three days on the Cross, which has been and always is the altar of our salvation. Tonight is no different: the focus is on the cross, that instrument of torture and death whose evil has been ultimately and forever defeated by that for which we kept vigil this night.

Over these past days, the Cross has become an icon of God’s love, the ladder to eternity, the linchpin of grace.  That horrible Cross was, on Holy Thursday, the threat of obscurity to a people under the thumb of the Roman Empire.  That same Cross became on Good Friday the delight of Satan, whose evil laughter we could almost hear when our Savior died.  Tonight, as we have kept vigil, we have seen that the Cross has become the altar of God’s most conclusive act of self-emptying, opening the door of grace to all of us who have already died the death of sin.  The Cross is proof that there is nothing the princes of this world, nor the prince of darkness himself, can do to thwart the salvation God offers us.  The cross is, indeed, our glory!

On Thursday evening, we gathered for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Father James taught us that union with Christ is union with the whole Christ. That the love of Christ has to be poured out in every situation according to our life’s vocation and station in life. That that love has to sanctify the priest and his congregation, the parent and the child, the Christian with the stranger in need. Because it was Christ who showed us that way, and poured his love on us, washing our feet and feeding us with the Eucharist.

Yesterday afternoon, we gathered for the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. I talked about the crosses we all bear and unite with the cross of Our Lord, and how we see our own disfigurement on the face of the suffering servant hanging on the Cross.

As we have kept Vigil here on this Holy Night, we have heard the stories of our salvation.  We have seen that time and time again, God has broken through the history of our brokenness, has triumphed over the lure of sin, and has redirected his chosen ones to the path of life.  Salvation history has brought us to the fullness of this night, not just a memorial of the Resurrection, but a real sharing in Christ’s triumph.  This is the night when Christ makes the ultimate Passover; leading us through the Red Sea of his blood, poured out for us, holding back the raging waters of sin and death, and guiding us, his brothers and sisters, into the Promised Land of salvation.  This is the night when the fire of his love blazes for all eternity to provide an enduring light in our dark world.  This is the night when our faith tells us that we are not the same as the rest of the world; we are a people set apart from all that drags humanity down to death.  This is the night when death itself is defeated by Christ our God rising from the depths of the underworld!

God delights in the freedom of will that we possess as a natural part of who we are because it gives us the opportunity to freely choose to love him, as he freely chooses to love us.  But he knows that same free will can and will also lead us astray, into sin, into evil.  The free choice to love God is a greater good than the absence of evil, so not imbuing us with free will was never an option.  Instead, the evil of our sin is redeemed on this most holy of all nights, this night which “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.”

And so it is fitting that this night is the night when we also focus on Baptism.  Everything is in place: the waters of the Red Sea are parted, the pillar of fire glows to the honor of God, we are led to grace and joined to God’s holy ones of every time and place, Christ emerges triumphant from the underworld and the sin of Adam is redeemed forever.  And so our Elect in a few moments will enter the waters of Baptism, renouncing the prince of darkness, professing faith in God, dying with Christ in the waters, emerging to new life, triumphant with Christ, and encountering the bright morning star whose light blazes for all eternity.  We will hold our breath as the waters flow over them, and sing Alleluia when they are reborn, crying out the praise of God with all the joy the Church can muster!

This is the night that redeems all our days and nights.  This is the night when sin and death are rendered impotent by the fruitful plunging of the Paschal candle, the Light of Christ, into the waters of Baptism.  This is the night that even the Cross, that instrument of cruelty and death, is transfigured, redeemed to the praise and honor and glory of God!

Christ is indeed the Morning Star who never sets, the one whose glorious light shines brightly to burst the darkness of sin and the grave, the one who cheated death of its hold on us, and shines the bright light of his presence on a world grown cold and dark, the one who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!