Easter Vigil Homily
A blessed evening to you all. Tonight I am coming to you from St. Luke’s Chapel of the Cathedral of the Resurrection In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We gather tonight, not as we were used to, by physically coming together. But we come together in spirit to celebrate a most wonderful night. As one preacher said, “It is the night of Easter. It is unique among all others because it is the night of victory, liberation and freedom, healing and the climax of the history of salvation” (Njoku Chukwuemka, CCSp).
The journey to this night began on Ash Wednesday. On that day ashes were imposed on our forehead, with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These words take us back to creation itself when “…the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7 NRSV).
Fast forward several weeks later and we found ourselves beginning our Holy Week celebrations with Palm Sunday. In the service we recalled the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. On any given Palm Sunday most of us would have participated in a re-enactment of this event with a procession into the church waving palm branches and singing hosannas, the way the crowd in Jerusalem did on that first Palm Sunday two thousand years ago.
On Maunday Thursday we recalled and celebrated the institution of the Lord’s Supper. “Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood..” (Luke 22:19-20 NRSV). We remembered Jesus washing his disciples’ feet to set for them and for us an example of humility and service. And here Jesus gave his disciples, and us, the new commandment, the ‘mandar’ to love one another as he loved us. His love for us is now to be the new measure of how we should love others.
Yesterday, Good Friday, we felt the pain of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and of Peter’s denial, his humiliation by the high priest and trial before Pilate. We felt the agony of his crucifixion and death. We entered into the gloom and darkness of death. To his disciples and other followers his death on the cross was a humiliating end, a tragic end. Entering the darkened church earlier this night gives us the same feeling that we have entered into a dark tomb.
But then comes a flicker of light – then another, and another as, from the Paschal Candle individual candles are lit until the darkness is overcome and the church is illumined with the brightness of “the light of Christ”. What we thought as the gloomy and dark end of our journey on Good Friday ends in joy and light of this resurrection night.
And with the light of Christ overcoming darkness the Exultet is sung proclaiming that “…darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King”. We proclaim that “This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt…This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life. This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the dead”
Again, Njoku Chukwuemka says, “By his resurrection this Easter night Jesus makes a very important statement. That is the fact that, he is the Lord of the living and the dead and that he has the power to liberate us. We have died with him through our Lenten observance. Let us also rise with him through the power of the Holy Spirit. The same spirit that resurrected him is capable of resurrecting our fallen and weak bodies” (cf Romans 8:11).
We just heard that the enhanced community quarantine for Luzon is extended until the end of the month. I am sure other LGUs in other parts of the country will follow suit. The loneliness of isolation and restricted movement continues. The suffering of millions of our people – the poor, the disadvantaged, the informal sector, the daily wage workers, the farmers – is prolonged. Our medical workers and other frontliners continue to risk their lives. The fear of death and death itself cast a very dark shadow on the land and on the people. Nevertheless, let us continue to cooperate and observe the guidelines of the enhanced community quarantine. It is the least we can do to help fight the spread of this deadly virus.
This is the night that gives us the strength to conquer despair. This is the night that gives us the strength to go on serving one another after the example of Him who came not to be served but to serve. This is the night that inspires us to love others, no longer as we love ourselves, but as He loved us and gave himself for us. And this Easter night gives us the assurance that the darkness of fear, despair and death will be “vanquished by our eternal King”. And so “we make our song. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”