Program #0496 for Wednesday, March 27, 2013: Exploring the Mysteries of the Easter Vigil

March 27, 2013

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Exploring the Mysteries of the Easter Vigil

Exploring the Mysteries of the Easter Vigil

Summary of today’s show: The climactic moment of not just Holy Week but of the whole liturgical year comes at the Easter Vigil, a liturgy filled with all the richest signs, symbols, and mysteries of the Christian faith. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams talk with Fr. Paul Soper about the four distinct parts of the Vigil Mass: the Liturgy of Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. If you’ve never been to the Easter vigil, you owe it to yourself to experience the fullness of the liturgical life of the Catholic faith.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Paul Soper

Today’s topics: Exploring the Mysteries of the Easter Vigil

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and noted that today marks the last day of Lent. Fr. Matt said he thinks of it as Spy Wednesday because the readings focus on Judas’ betrayal.

Scot said today’s show will focus on Easter Vigil which he considers the high point of the Church year. This Mass is truly special and we will discuss it with the hope that people who haven’t been or haven’t been in a long time will attend. Fr. Matt said this Mass is our Super Bowl. If you ever wanted to know what it means to be fully Catholic, this liturgy is the one.

Scot and Fr. Matt welcomed Fr. Paul Soper to the show. Scot asked him what he loves about the Easter vigil. He said he loves the richness of the symbolism, like a giant bonfire or lots of flowing water for baptisms, the Easter candle, the Exsultet. The readings of Easter night are the best of the whole year.

The Easter Vigil has four liturgies. Fr. Paul said it begins with the Liturgy of Light, lighting the fire, blessing the flame, lighting the candles. The liturgy of the Word is seven readings and psalms, the Gloria, a New Testament reading, the Gospel and the homily. Then the Liturgy of Baptism, whether for new people entering the Church or people renewing their baptismal vows. Finally, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Scot said his kids always sit in the back pew for the Liturgy of Light to get the candles lit first and pass it on to others. Fr. Paul said he loves the big bonfire to represent the love of God bursting into the world, like the stone covering the entrance to Christ’s tomb being blasted off at the Resurrection. Our spreading of the Gospel bursts into a world enshrouded in darkness.

Scot talked of the new Paschal Candle that is blessed at the Easter Vigil and how at every funeral over the next year, the casket will be placed next to it. Fr. Paul said death is the fulfillment of the promises of baptism and so all the symbols of baptism are present, like the candle, baptismal water, the white shroud.

At the end of the procession with the Paschal Candle, the Deacon or priest chants the Exsultet. Fr. Matt said he’s chanted the Exsultet once as a deacon and then once as a parochial vicar. He talked about practicing it over and over again before his first time so he could sing and pray it from his heart. Scot said the Exsultet is something to think and pray about during the Triduum. Fr. Paul said it is a prayer calling all of heaven and earth to exult in the beautiful events of this night and then focuses on the Easter Candle itself. They then played the Exsultet as sung by Fr. Jonathan Gaspar, Director of the Office of Worship.

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all comers of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).

(V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.)

V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.

V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

Scot interrupted this first part. He said the last two couplets are his favorite part. Fr. Paul said it’s a starkly honest theology in the midst of this beautiful poetry. We’ve done deadly things and are living under a sentence of condemnation and so what we need is someone to die for us. We’re not afraid to put our history and metaphysics in the same package.

Scot added that he loves the repetition of “this is the night”, which reminds us that this was one night that changed the world. This isn’t a myth or fable. It’s a real night from 2,000 years ago. Fr. Matt recalls attending an Easter vigil as an altar server, yet not understanding the Easter joy. It wasn’t until his early 20s that the experience of this holy night was radically changed forever for him. As we come to the point of the darkness of Good Friday and emptiness of Holy Saturday, the light burst forth in the Vigil and changes everything. He said the holy building shakes with joy because it is filled with mighty voices of the people. Fr. Paul said one doesn’t become that by possessing an idea. The early Church were witnesses to an event that changed the world.

Fr. Paul said he has a particular fondness for the description of the Easter candle as the work of bees. All of creation has worked together to strive so that God can be glorified. But if I don’t go, then their work is somehow in vain. If I go, it fulfills not just me, but them and what they were created to be.

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

Fr. Matt said his favorite part was that our birth would have been no gain if we weren’t redeemed. Jesus was born to die so we could have eternal life. And then:

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

For a biological dad to give away your son in order that everyone could have life would speak to a profound love. That is the love of Jesus Christ and the image of the unseen God.

Scot said after the Exsultet is seven Old Testament readings, although parishes can have 3 if they choose. Scot said these 7 readings are the essential readings of Salvation History.

Fr. Paul said the readings are from Genesis, Exodus, Baruch, Ezekiel, Isaiah. We start by hearing that God created the world and it was good, which is not always obvious to people. The created world is not evil. The next is the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham showing his faithfulness to God. God stops the sacrifice and will give His own Son for the sacrifice. The third reading is the passage through the Red Sea, which is filled with drama. This evokes the sacrament of baptism. When you go under water it’s like you died and are entombed and then you come up it’s like being alive again. The passage of Israel through the Red Sea is a rebirth. It’s directly connected to the cross. He noted that the Easter vigil is the normative time for baptism.

Now we have two passages from Isaiah which have promises made to the people of Israel in exile. There is no temple, no sacrifice, no priesthood anymore. Isaiah tells the people that God hasn’t forgotten them. Then the second Isaiah passage asks why people are running after things that can’t satisfy. The reading from Baruch speaks of the fountain of wisdom and then Ezekiel speaks of a new heart and a new spirit.

Scot said at this point we hear the Gloria, which is after the Old Testament readings, but before the New Testament readings. This is unlike other Masses. Fr. Paul said this liturgy reminds us that this moment of the Resurrection is the pivot point of all human history. This is the moment when the church’s lights come on, the flowers are brought out, trumpets are played. The liturgy is the foretaste and promise of heaven. Before it was dark and we were listening in hope and now it is after and we are experiencing the glory.

The Epistle to the Romans talks of baptism and the Gospel talks of the discovery of the empty tomb. This is followed by the baptismal liturgy. Fr. Paul said the first experience of the Christian community of the Resurrection was the empty tomb. The Resurrection was not just a spiritual phenomenon, but it was much more. Jesus was dead and now He’s alive. It’s clear that the burial clothes were thrown aside, unlike Lazarus who had been wrapped in burial clothes. Lazarus will die again, but Jesus will never die again. Death has been vanquished. Sin and death are the same reality and the vanquishing of one is the vanquishing of the other. The final power of sin over us has been broken.

Scot said as a cradle Catholic, he didn’t choose baptism, first communion, or confirmation, so he loves to see adults who have themselves come to understand the truths of the Catholic faith and choosing to become Catholic. It makes him ask if how he’s choosing to live his own faith.

Scot said we renew many of the baptismal promises and things of our profession of faith which is especially significant this year during this Year of Faith.

Following all this, we have the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Fr. Paul said the Eucharist derives its meaning from the Easter mysteries. St. John shows this in the scene when the soldier pierces Christ’s side and blood and water is poured out for us.

Fr. Matt thought about this as the coming together as the family of God, fed at the table of the Lord, and sent forth to bring that our other brothers and sister so they can take part next year.

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