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A Beacon Of Light… The Light Of Christ Has Dispelled The Darkness

March 30, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON JR.

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + On Ash Wednesday we began the Holy Season of Lent journeying toward the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. Since then we have used the Stations of the Cross as an instrument of prayerful reflection. Through Jesus’ condemnation and acceptance of the cross, His three falls, His meeting His Mother, Mary, and the humble Veronica, the help of Simon of Cyrene, meeting the women of Jerusalem, being stripped of His garments, being nailed to the cross, dying, being taken down from the cross, and laid in the tomb; we have seen the struggles of human nature.
    Each station was a reminder for us of the life we all live with its battles. Within these reflections has been a continuous light of hope, urging us closer to Christ.
    On Sunday, March 28, 2021 we celebrated Palm Sunday. With the celebration of Palm Sunday, we entered the holiest week of the Church year. This week, however, cannot exist on its own because it is uniquely connected to the celebration of the Incarnation. We cannot celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week without remembering the sole purpose of Christ’s coming as man, which was to restore us to original innocence, lost in the Garden of Eden.
    Likewise, the liturgies of Holy Week cannot exist on their own because they are one continuous celebration.
    Beginning on Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Priesthood and the Eucharist: two sacraments that are uniquely connected. Then on Good Friday we stand with Mary and the disciple, John, awaiting the precise moment when God’s plan of salvation is brought to completion in Christ. As the body of Jesus is placed in the tomb, we find ourselves waiting in anticipation of something more.

Conquering Sin And Death

Holy Saturday is different, however, because the anticipation is turned into reality. Holy Saturday is the culmination of everything. The Lenten journey along with our reflections is given substance. Holy Saturday is a poignant moment where we find the fulfillment of what we have been searching for. The whole day is enveloped in a sense of mystery that is intangible. The sun begins to set, and we find ourselves gazing toward the horizon. In a blink, the sun seems to fall from the sky, and it disappears. We are thrust into the darkness of night.
The Vigil of Easter begins in total darkness. The liturgy begins by introducing us to the theme of the night: “Dear brethren, On this most Sacred night, In which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life, the Church calls upon her sons and daughter, scattered throughout the world, to come together to watch and pray. If we keep the memorial of the Lord’s paschal solemnity in this way, listening to His word and celebrating His mysteries, then we shall have the sure hope of sharing His triumph over death and living with Him in God” (Roman Missal).
Soon that darkness of night radiates with the fire of new life. Everywhere throughout the whole world Catholics begin the ancient liturgical celebration of the Vigil of Easter with the blessing of a fire. This fire represents Christ’s conquering the darkness of sin and death. The priest blesses the new fire saying: “O God, who through your Son Bestowed upon the faithful the fire of your glory, Sanctify + this new fire, we pray, And grant that, By these paschal celebrations, We may be so inflamed with heavenly desires, That with minds made pure, We may attain festivities of unending splendor. Through Christ our Lord” (Roman Missal).
The paschal candle is lit from the fire and now the Light of Christ illuminates the darkness. Three times the Light of Christ is proclaimed to which we respond, “Thanks be to God.” The Exsultet, or Easter Proclamation, is sung reminding us of the great mystery we are celebrating.
In the second part of the Vigil of Easter, we take a journey through the Old Testament and are reminded of the history of our salvation. Listening to God’s Holy Word, we will meditate on times past and how God has saved His people. Fittingly we begin in the Book of Genesis and hear the story of creation and are reminded of the covenant made between the Lord and Abraham. In the reading from Exodus, we meet Moses and the Israelite people and are drawn with them from the slavery of Egypt to the glory of the Promised Land. Next, we are introduced to the prophets Isaiah, Baruch, and Ezekiel.
God used the prophets to assist in the way of salvation. He does this in three ways. First, He proclaims to them the message, then He gains their trust in Him and finally He sends them to call all the nations to Himself. Then the Gloria is sung, and the Joy of the Holy Night is made visible in the lighting of all the candles in the sanctuary. The Alleluia is sung once again as we celebrate the glorious triumph from death to life, from darkness to light.
Another part of the Vigil of Easter is the Liturgy of Baptism. It is here we visibly participate in the glory of Christ’s triumph. The liturgy of Baptism is when the catechumens are united to the person of Christ. The water is blessed and poured over the crowns of those to be baptized. In an instant, they become children of God!
Then all in the church renew their own baptismal promises and they are sprinkled with the saving waters of Baptism. Calling down the Holy Spirit, the Sacrament of Confirmation is celebrated with the newly baptized, and any others, sealing them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, assisting them in their new life of faith.
The Vigil of Easter then moves into the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we again celebrate the mystery of Christ’s saving life, death, and glorious Resurrection. We receive our Eucharistic Lord and are reminded of the great love He has for us all.
This is especially seen in the faces of those who receive the Eucharistic Lord for the first time. I remember a few years ago I celebrated the Vigil of Easter when an entire family became Catholic. The father, mother, and the two daughters prepared with me for many months for this special day. One of the girls was seven years old. I will never forget the moment she received the Eucharist for the first time. She started sobbing tears of joy. After the Vigil she told me that she knew deep within she had just become a member of God’s special family and had received Him into her heart.
Sometimes God uses children to remind us of the simplicity of our faith! I will never forget that day. God made manifest once again the unconditional love He has for His children.

Go In Peace

The Vigil of Easter ends with the great dismissal: “The Mass is ended go in peace, Alleluia, Alleluia!”
Some may think this ends our celebration, but it’s quite the contrary! This is just the beginning! The Easter Season is filled with such joy. For seven weeks we celebrate this great mystery of our faith. We journey with the members of the Early Church as they establish the very faith we share today. In reading the Acts of the Apostles we participate in the joy of the Resurrection!
These last few weeks have been a spiritual awakening for us all. We have looked deep within ourselves as we contemplated our relationship with Jesus. If the Stations of the Cross were a journey of Christ through the struggles of human nature, then we have been part of the struggles Christ endured. We should not worry, however, because the first words Jesus speaks after His Resurrection are: “Peace be with you!”
We have concluded our Lenten journey and must be at peace with ourselves because the Light of Christ has dispelled the darkness of sin and death and we have become sharers in His promise of the Resurrection. Yes, my dear friends, Jesus Christ is Risen, He has truly Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!

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