For some 40 days of Lent, we have fasted and prayed with Christ. Throughout Holy Week, we have followed the Lord even more closely as we re-enacted those saving events that gave us new life in Christ.
On Holy Thursday we sat at table with Christ as He gave us the gift of the Eucharist, the banquet of his sacrificed Body and Blood. On Good Friday, with love beyond all telling, we stood beneath the Cross as the Author of Life died to save us in loving obedience to His Father’s saving will. We wept as Jesus’ lifeless body was taken down from the Cross, placed in His Mother’s arms, and laid in a borrowed tomb.
Sharers in the sufferings of Christ, so now on this night of nights we rejoice to share in His Resurrection. If we would understand this mystery unfolding before our eyes of faith, we have only to be attentive to the Liturgy we have gathered to celebrate.
II. The New Fire and the Exsultet
This night we assembled in darkness and struck the new fire. As its flames leapt into the night sky, new hope was kindled in our hearts. From that fire, we lit the paschal candle, symbol of Christ among us. Then we proceeded toward the sanctuary, our way lit by the very Author of Light, just as once the chosen people were led through the desert by a pillar of fire. Slowly, the light enveloped the darkness. “Christ, our light!” we chanted three times and three times we answered, “Thanks be to God!”
And then the Church sang to her Risen Lord her ancient song of praise, the Exsultet, full of wonderment over what He had done. The Church enjoins the angels to rejoice and to sound the trumpet of salvation! The Church bids the earth to rejoice, “ablaze with light from her eternal King. . . ” The Church herself rejoices, ‘arrayed with the lightning of the Risen Lord’s glory’ – for Christ has conquered, glory fills you, and darkness vanishes forever! “This is the night,” – is the Church’s refrain, yes, the night of our salvation.
III. The Word of God
Filled with joy and hope, the Church invited us to listen to God’s Word. We listened as Scripture proclaimed how God created the world out of love made man and woman in His own image, and found his creation to be very good.
But you and I know the sequel. At the dawn of human history, man sinned, rejecting the friendship of God and marring the image of God within us. The human family began to walk in the darkness of sin.
Yet, even in that darkness a light shone in the distance. God revealed himself to the Jewish people and delivered them from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land, ‘for His love is everlasting.’ Through the Chosen People we came to understand the power of God’s Word and received His law which teaches us to live as children of the light.
As we continued listening to Scripture, we understood afresh how God’s promises were fulfilled in Christ, our Redeemer. Christ who is “God from God and light from light” has dawned upon us, has taken upon himself our humanity, has died to save us, and now is raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. And we share in his victory of sin and death, for we have been re-born by Baptism.
IV. Catechumens and Candidates/Renewal of Baptism Promises
On this night of nights, we welcome our catechumens about to baptized & confirmed. So also we welcome our candidates who will be received into the Church. How we rejoice to share with all of you for the first time, the banquet of Christ’s Sacrifice, His precious Body and Blood. We look upon you, dear catechumens and candidates, and we rejoice. For we see in you the Lord Jesus, alive and powerful, standing in our midst!
Rejoicing in your presence, we who are already baptized members of the Church pledge anew to open our mind and hearts as never before to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, to live the Gospel, to embrace the Church’s teaching, to live our vocations faithfully, and to worship in spirit and truth, to pray, and to serve those in need.
V. Conclusion: By What Water!
Dear friends, this is the night when light conquers darkness, when grace overcomes sin, when Life overwhelms death. This is the night when we rejoice as the Risen Lord stands among us, transcendent in His glory yet tangible in His Sacraments.
May no one ever take from us the joy of this night of nights. With unshakable faith, may we come to know ever more deeply ‘by what water we have been cleansed, by whose Spirit we have been reborn, by whose Blood we have been redeemed!’
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is truly Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!