By Father Corey Close
This past Easter was a special one for me as I had the privilege of presiding at my first Easter Vigil, Holy Saturday. It was especially meaningful because we had two members of the Elect (those who had not been baptized) brought into the Church. Preparation and practices were a tad stressful, but it is an experience I won’t soon forget.
I love the Easter Vigil and wished I had known about it prior to my time as a seminarian. The Mass began in total darkness into which I lit a match and threw it into a small fire pit that immediately burst into flame in beautiful, dramatic fashion! It was great saying the opening prayers by firelight as I announced the end of Lent and the beginning of the Vigil. Putting the nails, representing the five wounds of Christ, into the Paschal candle that will be used in the coming year’s liturgies — especially baptisms and funerals — was very meaningful to me.
We processed into the church with only the paschal candle lit. From that candle I lit my candle first, as the presider. It reminded me especially of my role as a priest as one of the chief ways that God speaks to his people. If my light does not shine, then many others may not shine. Soon the entire church was ablaze with candlelight and the deacon chanted the Exultet, a beautiful moment of the liturgy. I had the privilege of singing it last year and remembered the hours of practice that went into it.
After the Exultet, we entered the Liturgy of the Word with the central and beautiful texts of the Old Testament telling the story of God’s people in salvation history. Saying the prayers after each reading placed my own story of salvation, which the Lord is working on even now, clearly in the context of the story he has weaved since the beginning of time.
Then the lights came on and the Gloria rang out, representing the transition from the dimly lit darkness of the Old Testament to the bright clarity of the New Testament with the coming of Christ!
What a privilege it is to live in this, the last of the ages, after the coming of Christ, and to know that message has come down to me in the present day!
Following a reading from the New Testament, I intoned the Alleluia, the first time it is said liturgically since Mardi Gras. I’m amazed at what joy a single word can communicate, especially after having abstained from it during Lent. Alleluia! And to see the deacon bring the book of the Gospels amid the incense and the fanfare of trumpets brings out the glory of these four books that tell us about the life of our savior!
After giving my homily, I had the privilege of baptizing a man and a young girl into the faith! In our church, we have a wonderful eight-sided baptismal font which recalls for us the eighth day of creation, when Christ arose again on the eighth day, that is, Sunday.
In this font, all those who have been baptized have been recreated in the Spirit. Since we have such a nice, big font, I was able to get into it and baptize our two elect. Fortunately, the water was nice and warm as I welcomed the two into the font, one at a time and, at their request, dunked them and sang the prayer of baptism. Depending on future parish assignments, I may never have that experience again! It was a great witness to me of Christ, who comes down into our own muck to come to the aid of those who need it.
After changing, I confirmed the newly baptized. It was a special privilege since most confirmations occur by the bishop’s hand.
Saying this Easter Vigil Mass, the day after Good Friday, was moving as I was reminded of this precious sacrifice. What a grace it is to receive Christ each day and for me personally, as a priest, to be able to say Mass each day.
After Communion we sang a beautiful Easter hymn with many alleluias; it was a joy to belt them out! Why shouldn’t we? Outside the church the world was in darkness, as it is by sin. Here in the church we know the Lord has risen! May the Lord bless you all as you bring the news of the risen Christ to a broken world desperately in need. The Lord is risen.
He is risen indeed. God bless!
(Fr. Corey Close is parochial vicar at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton.)