This is the night of which it is written
the night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.
These words from the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation) remind me of my first experience of the Easter Vigil. Pam and I were teenagers and had gone to Confession on Holy Saturday morning. The priest gave us absolution and then for our penance he said we were to come to the Easter Vigil; which neither of us had heard about before. So that evening we went not knowing what to expect. The service was amazing. Something touched us both very deeply; we were filled with the Holy Spirit. it was just awesome.
After the service, Pam and I skipped on the way home to my parents’ house. It must have been about midnight; but the night had lit up for us, it was as if the night really did ‘dazzle’ for us; we were carried by the joy we felt inside of us.
The Easter Vigil is full of symbolism: fire, new light, new candle, new Holy Water, newly blessed oils, new Christians, new life. In our Baptism we die with Christ and through the mystery of our Baptism we rise with Him too. The darkness of sin and death from Good Friday is replaced by a resplendent light which shines for everyone. We are called to walk in that dazzling light and express our gladness. On that first Easter Vigil for my wife and I, we experienced that joy, that gladness. I don’t think our knees would appreciate us skipping nowadays, but we can hope to express our joy in other ways this year.
That was our first experience of the Easter Vigil. This year I will experience another few ‘firsts’, it will be my first Easter Vigil serving as a Deacon, it will also be the first time I have been present for an adult Baptism, as at St Bede’s we welcome Joe into our Church. We first met Joe on one of the Baptism Preparation sessions which we run, and we have accompanied him on his journey. We have joined in the RCIA Programme for the first time this year and are delighted that Joe is coming into the Church with all three Sacraments of Initiation alongside Oliwia who is going to be Confirmed at the same service. We are also delighted for Mo who is attending the RCIA, who will become a full member of the Church at St Michael’s in Tadley at the same time.
The last year has been a time of darkness, the whole world has felt the pain of the Pandemic, and many places continue to struggle. Here in the United Kingdom we are seeing the signs of Spring as blossom is on the trees and Spring flowers have appeared. The roll out of the vaccine programme gives us hope of better times. I would like to suggest that Joe, Oliwia and Mo receiving the Sacraments this Easter are also a sign of new life. This is new life for them and as well as for our Church. They are a sign of hope, of belief, of our Parishes continuing to grow and they are a result of the witness which we the people of out Parishes have given to the world. We need to continue to witness on behalf of Jesus, Our Risen Lord. He asks us to sow the seeds, which He will water and help us to bring to fruition.
The other evening at RCIA, it was emphasised to all three, that these Sacraments are not the end of the journey; they mark the beginning of a new life journey, where they will also witness to Our Risen Lord.
Our Sacraments are Gifts. Gifts freely given to us, which are there to sustain us until we return to God at the hour of our death. When we are Baptised, the candle used is lit from the Paschal candle [the first light of Easter] the wonderful thing about the Paschal candle is that it is not wrapped up again and put in a cupboard, it is left out for all to see and is used at various services throughout the year. This serves as another sign for us; that we are to be mindful of that gift; that gift which brings us into God’s family as his adopted children. As Christ died and is resurrected to life everlasting, our Baptism means that we have an invitation to eternal life. While it may not feel like it at times, our suffering on this earth is short lived in comparison to the life that awaits us as Baptised Christians in our Eternal Home.
Through the Sacrament of Penance we can be absolved from our sins reconciling us with God and our Community; enabling us to share in the Eucharist at Mass Through the Eucharist we share in Christ’s victory over death and we become the Body of Christ as we become what we eat; sustaining us for the battle against temptation and sin. Our Confirmation gives us an outpouring of the gifts and Charisms of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to see the world as God sees it; being guided by the Holy Spirit. The Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony teach us about sacrifice; the complete giving of ourselves to others, just as Jesus did. The Sacrament of anointing allows us to be absolved from our sins at a time of serious ill health, giving us Spiritual strength at a crucial time in our life; helping us to be ready to meet the Lord if He has chosen that time to call us to Him.
As I reflect back on my first experience of the Ester Vigil it occurs to me that if the joy I felt was as a result of my ‘penance’ I can only begin to wonder about the joy I pray I might experience, should I be blessed enough to get to heaven when I die!
I wish you all a Happy and Holy Easter; that you would bask in God’s love at this time and be renewed with his special graces.
3rd April 2021
Please keep in your prayers this week
- All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
- All those who took part in the Walk for Water campaign to raise money for Cafod
- Those who do not believe in God, that this Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
- Joe, Oliwia and Mo, that through the Sacraments they have received this Easter they will spread the joy of Christ to those they meet.
- All those who would love to be back at Church, but are having to shield to protect their health or the health of their loved ones.
- All those who contribute to the Sacred Liturgy which enhances our experience and helps to bring us closer to God.
Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD I have now completed more than 500,000 steps since Ash Wednesday and with your help I have raised overt £1600 for Cafod. As an aside I have also achieved a weight loss of almost one stone, it is not too late to sponsor me.
All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part, your prayers are very welcome.