Alleluia, the Lord is risen – He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
The Alleluia songs which were not sung in the Liturgies during the Lenten Season have now started echoing with the celebration of Easter, the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live” (Jn. 11,25).Our glory is in our Lord Jesus Christ: in His death on the Cross and in His resurrection. St. Paul has said: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor.15,17) Through His Resurrection, Jesus triumphed over sin, death and evil; and when we accept Jesus, believe in Him and live His Word, this victory becomes ours also.
The Church celebrates the Resurrection of Christ in the Easter Vigil and in the Easter Sunday Liturgy. On the Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his suffering and death. The altar is left bare, and the sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. Only after the solemn vigil during the night, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist as part of the Easter is held.
The Easter vigil is a vigil of the Lord. “That was for the Lord, a night of vigil, to bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, that same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations” (Ex.12, 42).
There are three parts in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil.
- The Service of Light
- Liturgy of the Word
- Liturgy of Baptism
- Liturgy of the Eucharist.
To start with all the lights in the church are put out and the Easter Vigil begins with the blessing of the new fire by the Celebrant Priest. “The Priest cuts across in the wax with a stylus. Then he traces the Greek letter alpha (beginning) above the cross, the letter omega (end) below, and the numerals of the current year between the arms of the cross. Meanwhile he says:
- Christ yesterday and today (as he traces the vertical arm of the cross)
- The beginning and the end (the horizontal arm)
- Alpha (above the cross)
- Omega (below the cross)
- All times belong to Him (the first numeral in the upper left corner) 2
- And all the ages (the second numeral in the upper right corner) 0
- To Him be glory and power(the third numeral in the lower left corner) 1
- Through every age for ever (the last numeral in the lower right corner)2
Then the Priest inserts five grains of incense in the candle. He does this in the form of a cross, saying,
- By His holy
- And glorious wounds
- May Christ our Lord
- Guard us
- And keep us. Amen.
Thereafter the Priest lights the Easter Candle from the new fire, saying:
May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”.
As the Celebrant enters the church with the Easter Candle, he lifts it high and sings: “Christ our light” and the faithful respond in singing: “Thanks be to God”. (Source : ‘The Roman Missal’ 1986, NBCLC, Bangalore).
Following the Priest the faithful enter the church in procession, with the candles in their hands lit from the Easter candle. Then the lights in the church are put on. What a beautiful truth to realise once again that we have no light apart from the Light of Jesus. Our lives have to be illumined by the Light of the Lord, which alone dispels the darkness of sin, confusion, unbelief, restlessness and the like from us and from others. Jesus is the Light that brightens every human heart.
Jesus Christ has said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (Jn 8,12). Entering the church with the lighted candles is a sign of our receiving the light of the Lord into our hearts and also a pledge to the Lord to walk in His light. During the forty days of Lent we have journeyed with the Lord, promising to the Lord to deny what is abhorrent to the Lord and to choose what is pleasing to Him; with a true and contrite Confession, we were given the grace of forgiveness of sins. In the first two days of Holy Triduum, Holy Thursday night and Good Friday, we have realised how painful it was for the Lord, bearing the sin of the human race. The gracious Lord has forgiven our past. Now it is time to start ‘anew’. Let us “be dressed for action and have our lamps lit” (Lk. 12, 35). We have “united ourselves with Him in His death in order to unite ourselves with His resurrection” (cfr. Rom. 6,5). With this attitude, with grateful heart and joy, now we enter into His Easter glory. We have mourned for Christ’s sufferings; now we celebrate the joy of His Resurrection.
Receiving the light from the Lord, we, in turn, should become the light of the world (Mt.5,14). Let the light and glory of the Lord shine through us dispelling all the darkness of sin from within. Unless this change takes place in us – a shift from “our former way of life, our old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and are renewed in the spirit of our minds and cloth ourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph.4,22-24), – we are missing the spirit of the celebration of the Easter Triduum.
In the Easter vigil, ‘the mother of all the vigils’, the relevant readings from the Scripture are selected in order to help us meditate on all the wonderful things God has done for his people from the beginning. As the Lord says through the Psalmist: “Incline your ears to the words of my mouth; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and his might and the wonders that he has done” (cfr.Ps.78, 1-4). Listening to the readings we come to realise how patiently the Lord was guiding, providing and protecting the Israelites in their times of difficulties.
Another significant Rite of the Easter Vigil is the blessing of the water which is used later in varied occasions – in Sacrament of Baptism, confirmation .. .for blessing the house and possessions, for making the sign of the cross as we enter and leave the church etc. Lowering the Easter Candle into the water, the Priest prays: “We ask you, Father with your Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the waters of this font. May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with Him to newness of life”. Followed by this, there is a Renewal of Baptismal Promises, before which we invoke the intercession of all the saints in heaven by singing the Litany to the Saints – which is an overwhelming experience, I should say! The Saints, while on earth defeated the tactics of the evil by their faithfulness to the Lord and to his Word (cfr. Rev.12,11); and they are ever ready to help us in our spiritual battle. So it is quite meaningful that we seek their intercession before the renewal of our Baptismal Promises. In our baptism as an infant (some might have adult Baptism) the promises, our parents and God parents said on our behalf, are promised now with full conviction, making it our own promise. We reject Satan and his works, and promise to serve God faithfully in His holy Catholic Church. St. Paul asks: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him by Baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom.6, 3- 4)
“The Spirit of Christ who raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom.8,11) is given to us in Baptism, and it is by the power of this Holy Spirit that we can renew our baptism everyday in our lives.- dying with Christ and rising with Him for a new life. And thus let the joyful celebration of Easter be transferred into our lives so that the glory of the Lord will become visible in our lives.
‘Alleluia, Christ has risen from the dead,
He has risen to die no more.
He lives, Christ Jesus lives today’.
And because He lives, I can live today
And face every tomorrow with hope and courage. Alleluia!
Fr. JMK, Mary Pereira