On Palm Sunday I preached about the “paradoxical shape” of Holy Week, how each of the major liturgies captures something of this. We see that most obviously in the liturgy for Easter Eve, the Great Vigil of Easter, which begins in darkness and climaxes in a great burst of light and sound at the proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus In between times as it were quite a lot is happening by candlelight (all lit from the Paschal Candle which is blessed and lit at the beginning of the service). In this semi-darkness we keep vigil, reflecting on the great formative salvation narratives beginning with Creation itself. We are reminded that this is God’s world created and formed in love but marred by human evil. This is followed by the Passover narrative from the Book of Exodus, describing God’s deliverance of his chosen people, the Jews, from slavery into freedom. It is good that this year that the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter (Pasch = Passover) occur in the same week. Readings from Isaiah and Ezekiel remind us of God’s Promises of a new covenant and a new spirit for his people. In other words the vigil helps us to contextualize the Resurrection of Jesus in the great sweep of Salvation History. From the Vigil portion of the liturgy we move to the Font to baptize (happily this year we have two candidates) and to renew our baptismal vows. As St. Paul says in Romans 6:1-4 in baptism we die and rise with Christ. In other words baptism is our way of participating in the shape of our salvation. As Christ died for our sins and rose again to bring us new life so we die and rise with him in and through the waters of baptism. All present renew their baptismal vows along with the candidates and their sponsors as a powerful reminder that we are all caught up in the “upward swing of our salvation,” in that saving shape which has marked the whole of Holy Week: the movement from darkness to light; from the old life of sin to the new life of faith, love and hope; from death to resurrection. We too die to the old way of life and embrace the new life we have in Jesus Christ. Having made vigil and having prepared ourselves by renewing our baptismal vows, the great proclamation of Easter takes place. I never cease to be moved by that extraordinary moment which then flows into the First Eucharist of Easter. Then on Easter Day it is pure celebration of the Easter message of peace, hope and joy with all the Easter hymns with their Alleluias and “all stops out” in the joyous liturgy.
At Holy Apostles you are well aware that Easter does not conclude after Easter Day but continues on for the Great Fifty Days until after the last service on Pentecost Sunday. While keeping the Resurrection, Ascension and Giving of the Spirit as separate events (following Luke’s pattern), the reality is that all three are part of the same mystery, the Exaltation of Jesus to the Glory of the Father, that “upward swing” of our salvation. I trust you all have a blessed and holy Easter.