Homily for Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil)
Theme: The Victory and Glory of Christ
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Homily for Saturday April 11 2020
It seemed to have ended in shame and humiliation! The Devil taught to have won the battle! It became so dark that the rays of light seemed never to come by! But God is always and ever victorious; and Christ the Lord is forever the Herald of His victory; and the Empty Tomb is for all generations a witness to the victory He has won, together with His disciples and all of us who believe. This is the reason for this Vigil, the Mother of all the vigils in the life of the Church; to keep watch as to see and become witnesses as the light and glory of the Victorious One arise. May your Easter joy know no bounds; Amen.
The Liturgy of the Easter Vigil Mass is a long, detailed, magnificent and complex one comprising, firstly, of the Liturgy of the Light (Lucernarium) that takes place outside the Church with which the ceremony begins. This Rite marks the beginning of the Vigil that opens the Church and the whole world to the victory of the Resurrection and illumines the mind and heart of the faithful to anticipate the emergence of the Eternal Light from the dark domain of death. It continues with the lighting of the Paschal Candle and procession with it into the Church which signifies the presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of the Liturgical Assembly and which invites the faithful to contemplate the glory of the Resurrection and the victory that has been won by Christ. These spiritual sentiments of the faithful is summarised in the chanting of the _Exsultet_ , an ancient hymn sung in praise of the Light of Christ represented by the Paschal Candle, which recaptures the significance of the Easter Vigil in the Liturgical and Spiritual Life of the Church, the damage caused by the sin of Adam and Eve, and of the restoration effected by the Passion, Death and the glorious Resurrection of Christ. The Easter Vigil has an array of seven readings from the Old Testament (Genesis 1:1-2:2, Genesis 22:1-18, Exodus 14:15-15:1, Isaiah 54:5-14, Isaiah 55:1-11, Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4 and Ezekiel 36:16-17, 18-28) with their corresponding Responsorial Psalms, One Epistle (Romans 6:3-11) and one Gospel Reading (Mt 28:1-10). These readings together recapture, in summary, the History of our Salvation and the story of God’s journey with humanity; how God never left humanity on its own despite the many betrayals and transgressions and the varied moments when men and women abandoned God and went their separate ways. God is ever present in the midst of men and women, in His love and mercy, in His justice and peace; and most concretely in His Son Jesus Christ whom He sent to set us free from the dungeon of sin and shame, and to open for us and before us the surest path that leads to God. Notable also in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil is the intoning of the _Great Alleluia_ (which has been omitted since the beginning of Lent) and the thunderous singing of the Gloria along with the sound of the ringing Church bells. Also, it is most fitting to baptise the catechumens, who must have prepared themselves in the traditional way, at the Easter Vigil to emphasis the great link between the Paschal Mysteries of Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism. Even when this is not done, the Rite of the Renewal of Baptismal Promises takes place within this Mass reminding us all that “when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in His death… so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.” The celebration of the Easter Vigil brings us to encounter anew the Risen Lord and renews in us the vigour of the faith we received on the day of our Baptism, so that the disciplines we must have cultivated during the Lenten Season, may render most fruitful and concrete our witnessing to the Life and Resurrection of Christ. All of these rites constitute the beauty and magnificence of the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil Mass which continues in the usual way after the Rite of Baptism or the Rite of the Renewal of Baptismal Promises.
The sole aim of the spectacular nature of the Liturgy of this night is to announce the victory and glory of the Risen One and to inspire in the faithful the renewed and constant desire to fix their attention on the beauty and glamour of the resurrected One and to make the necessary human effort to share in the glory of the resurrection. This sole aim was made known to us in the resurrection scene recounted to us in the Gospel Reading; “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said He would… go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.” It is interesting the instruction Jesus gave to the women for the disciples; “they must leave for Galilee.” Encountering the Risen Lord involves a necessary movement that must be made. The Season of Lent was a period to prepare ourselves so as to be able to swiftly and without hesitation make this movement. It is a movement that involves clearing our minds of doubt and of the uncertainties we entertain therein and also of everything that is unbefitting to Christ. It is a movement that entails outgrowing our fears and trusting in the power and promises of God. It is a movement that presupposes abandoning ourselves to the will of God irrespective of how unpleasant it may seem to our gullible and grossly ignorant human minds and eyes. It is a movement that demands being led by the Holy Spirit, enlightened by the seven gifts which He gives and also made docile by the twelve fruits which He breeds in the souls of those who believe. Only in such disposition can we lift our hearts and minds to see and to encounter the Risen Lord whose glory fills the earth and who has broken the chains that held us captives; who changes us into agents of peace and transforms us into sons and daughters of God; whose luminous and redemptive power we implore to heal the world of this Pandemic of the Coronavirus.
May the light and glory of the Risen Lord break every barrier, light-up the dark corners and bring to life every dead situation in your life and in your household; Amen. Happy Easter; Fr Cyril CCE