Friday, April 10, 2009

Homily for the Easter Vigil

Very early in the morning on the first day of the week they went to the tomb, just as the sun was rising.

There are two small but important details held in these brief words in the Gospel for this mass. Firstly, the women came to the tomb ‘just as the sun was rising’. When they arrived Jesus had already risen from the dead - so the resurrection took place not at dawn, as people sometimes like to think, but in the darkness. That’s the first little detail. The second is this: it was the first day of the week. Notice that the Gospel does not give the name of the day - for good reason, because generally speaking days of the week didn’t have names either for the Jews or the Roman - it is just the first day.

Each of these little details tells us much.

Firstly, the resurrection occurs not in the emerging light of day, but it breaks into the fleeing darkness of night. This is important. This is why we light our Easter candle, why we sing ‘Christ our Light’ ‘Lumen Christi’ - the light is not the first light of the sun, but the light of the Son himself which overcomes the darkness. We share a faith which celebrates victory over darkness, triumph over suffering, the defeat of Satan and the utter vanquishing of death. Christ overthrows the strongholds of night before ever the arrival of the expected dawn.

Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!

And secondly, this day, this wonderful day, is not the last day of a hard week, but the first day of a glorious life. How sad it is that people seem to have forgotten that the day we call Sunday is actually the first, not the last day of the week - look at your diaries and calendars at home to see what I mean. Don't confuse Sunday with the Jewish day of rest, even though it has some features in common. In Genesis it is this first day on which God begins his creation by separating light from darkness; in the New Testament it is the day in which God begins his new creation with the defeat of darkness.  Sunday is not for us the day of rest after the work of creation, but it is the day of resurrection, the celebration of the new creation.

May Christ, the Morning Star, who came back from the dead, shed his peaceful light on all mankind.

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