Christ is Risen! The Night will be as clear as Day!

Homily for the Easter Vigil

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Christ is Risen! What joy we have tonight as celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection. This is the most blessed night of the year and the most blessed celebration of the year. The joy of this night is captured by the Exultet or Easter Proclamation sung just after we took our places following processing in from the Easter fire. It keeps reminding us of the blessedness of the night when Christ rose.

This is the night when Christians everywhere…are restored to grace…
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death…
Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead.

The Hebrews were saved when the blood of the Passover lamb was sprinkled on their homes but that was only preparing for Christ the true Passover Lamb who ransomed us with his blood and whose blood consecrates our homes. The sin of Adam was a happy fault because it gained for us Christ our redeemer,

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a redeemer…
Of this night Scripture says:
The night will be as clear as day.

We heard a selection of beautiful readings from the Old Testament highlighting God’s saving work for our Jewish spiritual ancestors. In the first reading (Gen 1:1-2:2) we heard of God creating the world and everything in it good, and creating mankind as the climax of all his creation because only mankind was made in the image of God. Genesis says God began creating on the first day of the week. That was preparing for a still more wonderful new creation also on the first day of the week when the women went to the tomb of Jesus and were told by the angel that Jesus had risen. God creating the world and everything in it was a wonder but recreating us again or redeeming us on the first day of the week through Christ is even more wonderful.

We heard an account of the Hebrews escaping from slavery in Egypt (Ex 14:15-15:1). God saved them from slavery and oppression and brought them to a new land. That was preparing for an even greater work of salvation which God did for us in Christ and which we gain through baptism. The exodus through the sea and escape from slavery prepared for our exodus from original sin through baptism. The Hebrews wandered for forty years in the desert and finally entered Canaan. We wander in this life for many years and then hope to enter the Promised Land of Heaven. What God did for the Hebrews was wonderful but what God does for us in Christ which gain by baptism is still more wonderful.

We heard from the prophet Isaiah in which God offered good things free of charge and promised to renew the covenant made with David (Isa 55:1-11). Jesus is the Son of David who made the New Covenant with us promised a number of times by the later prophets of the Old Testament. With joy we draw the waters of grace and salvation from the well of Jesus in baptism and all the sacraments.

The New Testament reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans explains that grace we receive in baptism. We are completely changed. Paul says when we were baptized we went into the tomb with Jesus joining him in death and rose out of the tomb with him. In other words when we were baptized we left sin behind to live a new life with Jesus. Paul urges that we consider ourselves dead to sin but alive for Christ. Therefore on this most blessed night we will resolve once more to leave sin behind and live in the grace of Christ as we will renew our baptismal promises soon. We will renew our baptismal promises holding our candles lit from the Paschal Candle which in turn was lit from the Easter fire a symbol of Christ risen. You heard me tracing the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet on the Paschal Candle, Alpha and Omega. That is a way of saying that Christ is the first and last and everything in between in our lives. Christ is everything for us. You also heard me praying while inserting the five grains of incense in the candle symbolizing the five wounds of Jesus. When you were baptized the Paschal Candle was lit beside you symbolizing Christ standing beside you and tonight once again we will renew our baptismal promises with our candles lit from the Paschal Candle.

Our last reading tonight was from the Gospel. The women went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus since they did not have enough time to do it properly on Friday evening before the Sabbath began at sundown. The angel instructed the women to give a message to the disciples. He has risen. The apostles and disciples saw Christ risen many times after this. Beginning tomorrow Easter Sunday, the first reading for every Sunday and daily Mass until Pentecost will be taken from the Acts of the Apostles. That book makes it clear that after Jesus rose and ascended to heaven he was still with the Church. Jesus continued to be with the Church and to guide it from heaven. When you suffer remember that Christ is present. Christ is just as present with us tonight as he was in the early Church. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus learned that Christ is present when the Scriptures are read and proclaimed and when bread is broken and shared. During the Last Supper Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” Christ continues to be present with us when we gather to listen to Scriptures and break and share bread as he commanded during the Last Supper. When you want to meet Jesus now, he is present with us during every Mass as on the road to Emmaus when the Scriptures are proclaimed and explained and bread is broken and shared. When you feel like you are on the cross with Christ, remember that since his resurrection Christ is present everywhere. Christ is Risen!

This is the night when Christians everywhere…are restored to grace…
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death…
Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead…
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
Which gained for us so great a redeemer…
Of this night Scripture says:
The night will be as clear as day.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2011

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Easter Vigil

You Will Meet the Risen Jesus in Galilee in Your Everyday Life

Roll Away the Stone and Meet the Risen Jesus

Jesus Risen is the Light of the World 2008

Related Homilies: Passover Expectation of the Messiah, the Eucharist and Easter Vigil 2010

excerpts of funeral homilies

belief in the resurrection (excerpt of funeral homily)

stories about the next life and death