(The following column is an adaptation of the Easter Vigil 2014 homily that Bishop Martin Amos will give at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport on April 19.)
Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. All time belongs to him and all the ages. To him be glory and power through every age for ever. Amen.
With these words the Paschal Candle is inscribed and the candle is lit from the new Easter Fire. And each of us receives that light; a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light.
This symbol of Christ crucified and risen will stand in the sanctuary for the next 50 days as we celebrate the Easter Season.
Listen again to some of the words from the Easter Proclamation:
Exult, let the hosts of heaven exult, let angels exult, let trumpets sound
Let the earth be glad knowing an end to gloom and darkness
Let the Church rejoice, even let this holy building shake with joy filled with mighty voices of the people
Because: this is the night when Christ rose victorious . . . because: the sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence, brings joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord.
As we gather then around this candle, this sign of Christ and his victory, we prepare to welcome the Elect into the body of Christ through baptism. We gather to receive into full communion with the Church our candidates. We gather around this candle to see them anointed with God’s Spirit in confirmation and to share at the eucharistic table.
The rest of us are not mere spectators for on this holy night we renew our baptismal promises.
In the ancient Church, the catechumens faced west — the place of darkness — and renounced Satan… and then faced east, the place of light, to profess their new faith. The movement of their bodies reflected the shift in their allegiance: from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We renew that same shift in allegiance tonight.
We renew our baptismal promises. We reject Satan. We profess our faith in God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
On this night we, too, renew our covenant with God in the body and blood of Christ the risen Lord; a covenant that we ratify as we proclaim our “Amen” at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. Justin Martyr tells the story that this “Amen” was so loud in ancient Rome that the pagan temples would be shaken to their foundations!
A covenant that we ratify as we proclaim “Amen” as we are offered Communion; this is our consent to becoming more and more what we eat and drink: the body of Christ.
On this night the Holy Spirit sanctifies and makes holy not just the bread and wine, but us as well.
It is easy to tell the former: hands outstretched over the bread and wine in the Third Eucharistic prayer we hear:
“By the Spirit to make holy these gifts that they may become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
But, if we listen carefully, we hear the Spirit invoked a second time:
“…grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.
The Spirit makes the bread and wine the body of Christ.
And makes us more and more into the body of Christ.
For the next 50 days we will continue to celebrate and unfold what has happened these past three days. May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star…Christ, who coming back from death’s domain has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.