The Easter Vigil
22 March 2008 (During the Night)
Rosary Monastery, St. Ann’s
In the midst of this beautiful Easter night Vigil so full of words and ideas, let me share just a brief reflection inspired by the Epistle Reading taken from the 6th Chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. I would be remiss if I didn’t share this thought relevant to St. Paul’s teaching on Baptism as a share in Christ’s death and thereby in His resurrection.
Just a short while ago we heard these words: “If in union with Christ we have imitated his death (through Baptism), we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realize that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin.”
If daily Mass is part of your life as it has been of mine for way more than half the years which have passed since I first saw the light of day, then perhaps you too sense something awkward or wrenching about the Holy Saturday just past, the one day of the whole Church year with no public liturgy and no celebration of any sacrament outside of the context of giving someone the Last Rites.
An ancient homily on Holy Saturday found in the Breviary expresses this sentiment and explains the significance of what now fills our hearts with joy:
“The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory… He took (Adam) by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son… Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.”
Maybe we cannot even get a handle on the wonder which is the Resurrection, but it is worth trying and I think that sharing the perspective of the Fathers of the Church who spent a lot of time reflecting on Jesus as the new Adam might be of help to us. Our Faith really is something “up close and personal” as the expression goes. Permit me to share an insight from my own life experience which helps me put flesh and bones on these highly exalted mysteries, that is, in some way to understand the dynamics of the way in which we were saved:
As the oldest of eight children and a boy, having been away from home in the seminary from my mid teens and maybe also for my temperament, when I was around my father or saw a picture of him, I drank in every detail especially of my father’s face. His smile, his laugh, and other expressions of emotion, plus just his face without any special expression, are here in my head to be called up from my memory as vivid pictures, even nearly 23 years after his death. Now that I am older and maybe even a bit jowly, there are times when I catch my own reflection out of the corner of my eye and I see his expression, the corner of his mouth in mine. What I used to blame on his dentures, I can now see was not the dentist’s fault. This little detail or experience makes me reflect on the moving experience older dads must have when they catch a glimpse of themselves in the face of an adult son.
That having been said, try to imagine the emotion of Adam on this night so many centuries ago, when looking up from the darkness and the shadow of death into which he and Eve had banished themselves, he saw himself in the glorious face of his Son, his Creator, his Savior!
“Rise, let us leave this place," Jesus, the Risen One, said to him, "for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.”
Incarnation and Redemption – Christmas and Easter… How do I say it adequately? Understanding the implications of Easter, the consequences of our Baptism, should send us tumbling to our knees and by the same token jumping out of our skin for sheer joy. “You have put on Christ! You have become a new creation!” Recognize your dignity, O Christian! Recognize the favor shown to you! The Sun of Justice has dawned upon you, to take your hand, to lift you up and to take you to Himself. Ours is a life full of promise and blessing.
“If in union with Christ we have imitated his death (through Baptism), we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realize that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin.”
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!