Each year, eighth graders write to me as they prepare for Confirmation. In these letters, they talk about why they wish to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and often mention the reason they chose their sponsors to accompany them on the journey.
I always enjoy reading these letters, but I received one that seemed especially appropriate for the Easter season. One young man wrote to tell me that his sponsor had taken him to the Easter Vigil Mass last year. He had never attended the Easter Vigil Mass and wrote: “I didn’t know what to think, but I found it was a really beautiful Mass, and I paid attention the whole time. It didn’t seem long at all.”
This young man got it right. The Easter Vigil is the central celebration of our Church year. We hear our salvation history, we renew our baptismal promises, and we move from darkness to light as we, the mystical body of Christ, gather to join with Jesus Christ who died and who is now risen. We sing alleluia!
In the readings, we trace our salvation history from the beginning. We hear about how God created our magnificent universe and how he leads the chosen people to freedom from slavery and sin. We hear the prophets yearning for a Savior and the high point of salvation history as the followers of Jesus, the son of God, encounter the empty tomb.
In this re-telling, we uncover the story of our lives born in God’s image and likeness and how, transformed by grace, we are led from darkness and sin into the light of Christ.
This is the celebration at which we welcome new Catholics: those who have never been baptized through the sacrament of baptism and those from other Christian traditions, through the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. We bless the paschal or Easter candle, which will grace the altar throughout the Easter season and which will be used throughout the year at baptisms and funerals.
This is a liturgy of symbols and senses — fire, water, light, dark, incense, music. As my eighth grade friend said, it is a beautiful liturgy.
Pope Francis shared a powerful image in his Lenten message for this year. He described how in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, “… the gate between God and men, between heaven and earth, opens once and for all.” Then he added: “The Church is like the hand holding open this gate.” The Easter Vigil vividly depicts the Church holding open the gate between heaven and earth.
I invite all Catholics to consider attending the Easter Vigil in your parish this year. It is a great start to your Easter season, and I think you will find that it won’t seem long at all!
Please know of my prayers for a blessed Easter season for you and your family. May God bless you!