But it’s so long, Father!

 
Yes, it is long. In fact, tonight’s Mass is admittedly the longest of the church year, chiming in from start to finish somewhere around two to two and one half hours, but it will change your life deeply. And, think of what our Lord endured, so you cannot come impatient, watching a clock, and without allowing yourself to fall deeply into the experience. The Vigil liturgy tonight must be experienced; you must allow yourself to be immersed in every nuance.
 

The Easter Vigil begins with darkness. The darkness itself is the actual first movement of the liturgy, so we begin our preparations with that darkness. It represents all darkness – and all the meanings of darkness – whatever, wherever, and whomever is devoid of light; evil thoughts, motivations, deeds, actions; all that is hidden and secret, things deceitful and dishonest, gossipy, divisive, and abusive, and yes, immoral and sinful. It is all the ways and means that darkness is of our world, and all the ways that this darkness finds its way into my heart, and I am sure your heart, too. So, if you come to the Vigil tonight and restless, and impatiently fidgeting in the darkness that we begin within “until something happens,” you will miss the power of what is about to happen! We begin, today, in the sunshine that is trying to become our Holy Saturday, under the semi-clouded skies of God’s created world, to prepare by readying ourselves to experience the darkness so that we will then even more appreciate the Light. 

Why come then? Because #MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs) needs to be replaced with #CTLOW (Christ The Light of the World). To do anything less is distasteful and reprehensible, embarrassing and humbling, fearful and despairing. It is only in the Light where true power, deep grace, and ultimate love lies, not in any-sized-bomb that destroys anything.

So, what are the movements you will experience if you dare to come tonight and join us in the darkness? First, we begin outside were in the darkness, a fire is kindled. Then, the candle is lit from the new fire and processed into the community – into our parish – into our hearts to warm us again. We receive its light, and experience its power, as that light grows among us. When the candle is brought to the front of the sanctuary, we experience, too, the Exultet, the Easter Proclamation,and so begins our journey through Salvific history and life is renewed.

We will then bless water, renew our baptismal promises, re-engage as Christians and as Catholics in a world that would rather know us not, as so many hearts are bent on revenge, and plotting, and amassing more things, rather than changing the world with light, love, selfless giving, and hope.

Yes, even as a priest, I am always human; and as a man, I like you, openly share some of the original Apostles’ doubt that day, “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” they met those women who had he audacity to say He lives! After all, how could we not doubt? We live in a scientific age when truth must be verified by some controlled means for validation. No one alive today has witnessed a person rise from the dead! And yet, we believe…we believe the unbelievable testimony of those Galilean women that came full-force to those apostles in their deep grief and unimaginable loss, just as much as it comes to us today…tonight…after the sun sets and the world is drafted into darkness again.

But, pause for a moment today as you go about your busy Saturday lives and think for a moment as to ‘why’? Why do we believe? We believe not only because the apostles came to see the risen Jesus, but also because of experiences that you and I have all had just like that woman whose daughter rose from a death-like condition, because so many of us have been raised, too, from the plagues of our own lives. We do more than give credence to the story, we live it over and over again.

Amid your busy springtime, as the weather softens and our bodies beg to become lazier, God’s holy Church comes and begs us be different! The Church comes and interrupts our days and intrudes on our ‘standard way of life’ to summon and to haunt us.

Around that fire tonight at eight o’clock in the evening, just after the twilight has vanished, witnessing the first light of a brand new Paschal Candle, and in those wooden pews hearing about how we became a people of God, will be those who know for certain, absent any scientific fact, that we believe and so we conform our lives to Jesus, that we, too, might rise from the dead.

There is among us a deep and engaging wonderment of a world that can be made anew, a place where conservatives, moderates, and progressives alike can start a world again that loves first. It begins tonight with the longest Mass of the year, yes, but oh the peace that will come is worth every single second…

Come…

 

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