This night of the Easter Vigil is the most solemn celebration of the Church in her liturgical year. It is in the vigil of this night that we anticipate and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from the dead. It is a night of transformation: transformation of our world, of our life, of our destiny, of our relationships and of ourselves. We celebrate this transformation in 4 liturgies that all come together in this vigil.
The first liturgy is a Liturgy of Light. We began gathered around the fire outside. As we look at the flames, we see that fire is chaotic, is dangerous, is out of control. And yet, when channeled and harnessed correctly, how useful fire becomes in providing warmth, for cooking our food, for bringing people together, for our combustion engines, for giving us light. The symbol of this transformation is found burning in the light of our Paschal Candle, commemorated by the Exultet we sang, that Jesus is the true light of the world, not chaotic or dangerous, but harnessed and given to us directly as a gift. He is the true light which never sets, bringing light to transform our darkness.
The second liturgy is the liturgy of the Word. In a special way this evening, we listened to many stories of our salvation history. Some of the readings were more nostalgic of days gone by. Some of them were filled with dreams of a future possibility amidst misery. All of them were filled with a certain waiting for a certain reality to set in. And indeed, tonight that reality is ushered in, is present among us; it moves beyond wishful thinking or a concept of the imagination, but we have it within our grasp: the fulfillment of deepest longings. And as we look at our salvation history, we realize that God has been transforming us all along, beginning with the creation of the world as the universe was transformed according to God’s very goodness, made in his image and likeness. And then we heard how God transformed the plight of the Israelites as they were freed from slavery and death in Egypt and then delivered dry-shod to the Promised Land with all the spoils of Egypt. We heard how God transformed the nation of Israel from the misery of her disobedience and exile and through the prophets made her ready to embrace the covenant once more. In the Gospel, this ultimate transformation is announced to us, that Jesus has fulfilled these promises, that he is alive and victorious over every power of evil. St. Paul asks us therefore to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ. Our readings celebrate this transformation.
Our next liturgy that we will soon partake in is the Baptismal Liturgy, where this year we welcome 3 candidates and catechumens into full initiation with us in the Church, and where we ourselves renew our own baptismal vows. In this liturgy, the primary metaphor we run with is of course water. Water can be powerful, destructive, and has claimed many lives over the years. And yet, nothing can live without water, such is its life-giving propensity. In this liturgy, we celebrate our own transformation, in that through Baptism we share in Christ’s death, purging from ourselves our old lives to sin, so as to be transformed and receive the new life of Christ within us. We are confirmed in this life, and we recommit ourselves to this life, asking for God to bless us more abundantly, to strengthen us, that we would have this life and have it to the full.
And lastly, the transformation we celebrate this evening culminates in the liturgy of the Eucharist, where we bring forward bread and wine, ordinary food and drink, and they are transformed upon this altar into the very being of Jesus himself, his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. And what is so amazing is that, not only does the Holy Spirit come down and transform these gifts alone, but the Holy Spirit is called down upon all of us who are gathered here, that we would be transformed ourselves into the Body of Christ, and make our return to the Father together with Jesus, caught up in an eternal Communion together.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, our world is changed forever. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, death has been transformed into life and even sin, and suffering, and the crosses we face have been robbed of their power. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, a new destiny is opened up for us, with victory and rejoicing and happiness forever in heaven. Because of the resurrection, our relationships are transformed to something meaningful, enduring. Because of the resurrection we ourselves have hope. Tonight is the night of transformation. Stand and live in the new life that has been opened for you. Amen. Alleluia!
Holy Saturday Easter Vigil readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/040823.cfm