Since there is so much in the celebrations of Easter, the high point of the Church Year, I shall begin by giving an overview of the mother of all vigils: the Easter Vigil, and then focus on the making and renewing of the Baptismal Vows in both the Vigil and Sunday Masses.
The Roman Missal explains that during the Easter Vigil “The Church keeping watch, awaits the Resurrection of Christ and celebrates it in the Sacraments.” The Vigil begins in a darkened Church. The large decorated paschal candle, representing the risen Christ, is lit and is carried into the church while the words “Light of Christ” are proclaimed. Usually, small candles, held by the congregation, are lit from the pascal candle and the light is passed from one worshiper to the next until the whole church is filled with light from the candles. I see this as symbolic of the fact that we are to carry the light of Christ into a dark world.
Several readings from the Hebrew Scriptures summarize the story of salvation beginning with the story of creation, the choosing of the Hebrews to be God’s people, and their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Then the readings speak to God’s constant care until Christ comes. Prayers and canticles follow each reading.
After the readings, the altar candles are lit from the paschal candle, and the church is filled with light and triumphant music. The “Alleluias” are heard in the Church again and the first Easter Eucharist begins. Our risen Lord has come into the darkness to light up the world.
Following the Gospel, the Saints are invoked to pray for those to be baptized and/or receive other Sacraments. Then the baptisms and confirmations take place. Those who were baptized in Christian denominations whose baptisms are accepted as valid by the Catholic Church make a profession of faith in the Catholic Church.
The people in the congregation are sprinkled with holy water as a reminder of their own baptisms. They renew their vows to renounce Satan and promise to serve God in the holy Catholic Church. For those who were baptized as infants or young children, it is an opportunity to consciously verbalize their commitment to Christ.
Since none of us is perfect, it is a way for all of us to start anew to live and love as Jesus has taught us. The Liturgy of the Eucharist follows and the newly baptized will join the rest of the people receiving Holy Communion.
The Easter Sunday Masses are like the ordinary Sunday Masses except for the addition of a sequence, the renewal of Baptismal Vows, and several choices for the Gospel readings.
Although there are several choices for the Gospel on Easter Sunday, I shall focus on John 20:1-9. Many believe that aware of how deeply His mother Mary was suffering, Jesus would have appeared to her first. That may well be true. In fact, John concludes his Gospel with the following words: “Now there are many other things that Jesus did. If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written.” (John 21:25).
John, the evangelist, has personally witnessed Mary of Magdala grief-stricken running to tell Peter and himself that the stone had been rolled back from the entrance of the tomb. She fears that His body has been stolen.
In response, Peter and John hasten to the tomb. John, being younger, arrives first but does not enter. When Peter arrives, he goes inside and sees the burial cloths and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head, not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place. Then John goes in, sees and believes. According to John: until that moment, “they had failed to understand the teachings of scripture that he must rise from the dead.” (Jn 20:9).
During the Easter Season, we shall be reflecting on the many ways the risen Savior makes himself known to the people. What great joy they must have felt after witnessing the cruel Passion of Jesus to know that He was victorious and that they would someday share in His victory over death.
Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D. Historian, Certified archivist, emerita
To shine a light, you need to turn on a switch or strike a match to light a candle. To bring the Light of Christ anywhere, we must first have Christ’s Light within us.
Any lamp needs fuel. Matthew tells us that the “eye is the lamp of the body” (6:22). During these difficult times, our eyes are almost the only part of our face showing above our face masks!
Christ’s lamp within us needs fuel. Mother Katharine tells us that prayer and the reception of Holy Communion are the food necessary for a strong spiritual life. If we are open to being fed by the Word of God and to the love He freely offers us, we can fan a little light of God into a fire of His Love radiating from us. This fire will then illuminate our actions.
Do our eyes show that we are listening to those around us who are asking for help or prayers? Do our eyes show the joy and gratitude we feel for the love and mercy God has for us? Few of us are where we would like to be physically or socially or perhaps spiritually. But we can keep trying to do what God asks of us in a willing manner. Then our lives will shine the Light of Christ to all.
At the Easter Vigil we will sing: “Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts, Shine through the darkness.” May the Light of Christ shine in and through our hearts today and always.
Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
“But you, beloved, are not in darkness…for you are children of light and children of the day.” These words from 1 Thessalonians 5:4 came rushing to mind as a result of three individuals who chose to let their lights shine one ordinary day.
Wednesdays are shopping days for mom and me. We adhere to a set pattern. I gather her up and we leisurely walk down the long hallway to the exit where I park the car. Once mom and her walker are in the car, we head to Walmart, the Dollar Store, the supermarket and occasionally, the State Store to pick up a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape wine. She maintains that it warms her “insides.” One blustery cold Wednesday our routine chores were elevated to glimpse Compassionate Presence. The event that set my heart ablaze was not announced or noticed by anyone other than myself but it was one of the strongest sensations of being in the Light that I experienced, at the supermarket, of all places.
All the handicap parking spaces were taken, so I decided to drop mom off at the entrance of the store. The area was exceptionally congested and noisy due to active construction work. I pulled up, got out of the car, went over to the passenger side to get mom and walker out. A young man, who was gathering up shopping carts, paused and asked if I would like him to get a handicap cart for my mother. Then, from seemingly nowhere, a woman was standing next to us. She told me she would take care of my mother while I parked the car. I was still trying to figure out where those two people came from when I went inside the store and found my mother comfortably sitting on a chair off to the side with a team of three people surrounding her. The third person was a young male store associate who had fetched the chair for mom. They attended to her as if she were a celebrity. I thanked them repeatedly, and they were genuinely appreciative of my thanks.
The young men who tended to the needs of my mother each had speech and physical impairments. Rather than limit their abilities, these “handy-capable” individuals had innate insights which moved them to be of service to a stranger. There was such simplicity in their actions and in their caring! I sensed the movement of the Holy Spirit as I held back tears of gratitude. Their response held the intrinsic energy of “We’re here for one another.” I felt very much a member of the Body of Christ for a few brief moments huddled in this little circle in the bakery department of Giant Market. The woman, who was the supervisor of the boys, had stepped outside for her break which she willingly sacrificed to watch out for my mother. Mom benefitted from the attention and pampering, but the lesson was exclusively mine.
Mom’s helpers were shining lamps radiating light to all around them. I felt embraced by warmth in their presence because Presence (The Lord) was shining through them. The big question for me was, “Would I have even noticed the elderly woman, the pressured caregiver, the tired mother?” Regrettably, the truthful answer was probably “No.” My flame was extinguished, mostly due to my recurrent bouts of negative thinking regarding all the ongoing restrictions surrounding Covid. Would the prolonged darkness of pain, separation and self-suffocation of masks ever end? Not if I keep fanning the flames of misery.
God’s Divine Mercy cradled me that day and restored me to renewal. God’s Light is contained in His Word (Holy Scripture). I recognized I was spending so much time reading and listening to all the fear-fueling news that my prayer time with God had slipped to daily snippets. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Light begets light. I chose to reignite my flame that day. That ordinary shopping day was a grace-filled gift for me. Thus, I encourage any reader who may be experiencing distress over conditions “out-there,” to spend adequate time going “within” to commune with Jesus who is “Light from Light.”
“Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
Let us pray for an end to the Pandemic, racism, injustice, and suffering in our world!
Let us bring peace and justice and joy to all!
May you and your loved ones
have a blessed Triduum
and Easter Season!