Mar. 31, 2018

Holy Saturday, 2018

“Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes forever!"

The Vigil of this great night begins with the service of light. We all gather around the big pot of fire. The priest echoes as he lights up the Paschal candle, "May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds". All other lights in the church are turned off. The Great Paschal Candle Light alone radiates the evening. We light the Paschal candle and joyfully march behind the Light of Christ. The Easter Exultet is proclaimed which captures the joy of this great night, "Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes forever!" The message is that Christ the Lord is risen from the dead. Christ breaks the chains of darkness. The empty tomb bears witness, as the angel says to the women, “He has been raised; he is not here”. Christ is not in the darkness. He is not in the void. He renders death powerless. He rolls the veils away. 

The Genesis account of creation narrates the power of light over darkness. God says, “Let there be light. God saw that light was good, and God separated light from darkness " (Gen.1:3-7). In the exodus account, God makes himself available to the Israelites in the form of Pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire in the night. God shields his people from annihilation, protects them from their Egyptian assailants. God's light surrounds Israel and delivers them.

In the Holy week, we experience the struggle between darkness and light. The forces of hatred attempt to extinguish the light of goodness, love and mercy. Christ the Light of the World, is crucified. Betrayal reigns over trust. Hatred ridicules love on the cross. Falsehood threatens truth. Gossip and rumors oppose transparency. Injustice intimidates fairness. Conspiracy mocks confidence. The shepherd is struck, the sheep scatter. Wailing and crying take to the streets. Fear grips the universe. Criminals gain freedom in place of the innocent. Pilate queries the authority of Jesus, questions him, “Truth, what is that?” (Jn.18:38). The gospel laments, "The sun's light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land" (Lk.23:44). This is the calamity of the death of Christ. At the death of Jesus, darkness takes a momentary reign because everyone rejects the light.

But that’s just the beginning. Christ’s resurrection is the force that restores light to the world, “…life that was the light of men; and light that shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it" (Jn.1:4). Pilate and the Roman soldiers wrongly think they are the heroes. They imagine that everything will end on Good Friday. They only know about death, they don’t know about the resurrection. Sunday morning takes them unawares. The Light beams irresistibly. Scripture says of the power of Christ, “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!" (Matt. 27:54). Jesus is indeed “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. 

Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome set out to anoint Jesus’ body. They find out that his body is not there. The tomb is empty. They have no idea that Jesus goes to the tomb to destroy the powers of death, to dispel darkness. His death is different because He is Lord of the living and the dead. He dies to free us from the bondage of death. Mark reports that the women are utterly amazed. They are amazed because something extraordinary; indeed, something super-ordinary has happened. The whole world is amazed today at the resurrection of Christ. That’s the true story, our salvation story. The tomb is the witness. The burial cloths are present. The angel is there to confirm it. Christ has conquered. His glory fills us. Darkness vanishes forever in our lives.  

Prior to his death, Christ says to his followers, "I am the light of the world, anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). The paschal candle symbolizes the light of Christ in our liturgy tonight. At the beginning of our celebration, the priest lights his candle from the paschal candle, then everyone lights her/his candle and gives the light to the other. In that process, everyone’s candle is lit. The church becomes aglow with light. What a beauty is the movement of this light. That fulfills Christ’s words, “anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life". We must appreciate the mystery of tonight’s celebration, and therefore be agents of light.

In Christ, “Darkness vanishes forever”. The Psalm tells us, "In your light, Lord, we see light" (Ps.36:9). Again, we read, "Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame". Christ frees us from shame, pain and fear. He frees us from darkness and death. He frees us from sin and iniquity. He frees us from hatred and lack of forgiveness. He makes us children of light. Let us take this light home; it is the light of love, compassion, sincerity, fairness, and peace. We are the children of the resurrection. We are the children of light. Christ has truly risen. He sets you free. Alleluia!