There are no bystanders at the Easter Vigil. Like the new fire itself, we all tend to become ‘fully involved.’
It’s true in a literal sense: At a couple of different points in the liturgy, things grind to a complete halt—so that candles can be lit.
Lots of candles.
We all tend to get wet, too. After the newest Christians among us are doused in the waters of baptism, the rest of us receive a reminder of that same moment in our lives—when cedar sprigs are dipped in water from that very font, and then used to fling the refreshing droplets of new birth out over the assembly.
Turn to Hymn 660 in the missalette, and you’re likely to find a few water-soaked ripples on the page—souvenirs that remain throughout the year of the joy in which we are immersed during our vigil celebration.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment. And that’s precisely the point: This is real. It’s happening now. And we are all witnesses.
As the deacon reminds us in proclaiming the Exultet:
This is the night
That with a pillar of fire
Banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night
That even now, throughout the world,
Sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
And from the gloom of sin,
Leading them to grace
And joining them to [God’s] holy ones.
At times, it can be a difficult reality to fully grasp. Like Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome (whom the evangelist Mark names as the first arrivers at the tomb), our minds and hearts tend to look back at what was.
Clearly, though, our call as Christians is to look forward.
‘He is going before you…’
And it’s an essential part of the Paschal Mystery—our ability to participate as witnesses. To see how Christ has conquered sin and death, not just then but today. As Fr. Matthew Kelty OCSO has observed, ‘Our response…contributes to the cause, since in grace we build the Kingdom with Christ and bring his work to completion.’
Aware of our sinfulness, we may not always feel up to the challenge. But isn’t that precisely the point of professing that Christ has conquered sin?
Christ is risen, in us, if we will allow it.
So let us sing ‘Alleluia!’ And let’s get to work, sharing this Easter joy with the world around us!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.