Easter Vigil shows that God’s love conquers the darkness

Categories: Around the Diocese,Guest Views

By Nicole Walz

“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.”

I found myself singing these simple yet profound words of the Easter Proclamation (“Exsultet”) two years ago in Haiti on a mission trip during our makeshift Easter Vigil Mass.

vigilcandles

CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

I’ll never forget the power that these words took on after spending almost a week serving alongside the Missionaries of Charity in a developing country. These words proclaim a truth which no poverty, suffering or violence is able to silence: The light has entered the darkness and has overcome it. This is the very heart and lifeblood, the central event, of Christianity!

My favorite part of the Easter Vigil has always been the lighting of the individual candles. The solemn, almost tangible darkness in the church — seeming to stand still in breathless agony yet expectation — slowly gives way to light, first from the fire that lights the Easter candle, and then gradually spreading and strengthening as the candles of each person present are lit.

This beautifully reveals the mystery of the reality of God’s love as stronger than death and the conqueror of the darkness that we experience in this life.

Divine love story

The entire Easter Vigil — April 4 this year — is a great drama of the love story between God and his people. The readings take us back to the beginning, to God’s creation of man and woman (each of us) in his own image and likeness out of infinite love, his victorious leading of the Israelites out of Egypt, his revelation of himself as the “husband” of his people who calls us back to himself continuously even when we just as often refuse his love.

It all leads up to the turning point, not only of the Easter Vigil but of all human history. This turning point is the proclamation that Christ, the Son of God, who died that we might live, is now risen! He’s alive!

This is something we’ve heard a thousand times, but it changes everything.

The Gloria, accompanied by loud and triumphant bells, expresses this excitement and the indescribable joy that this truth brings to human life.

There’s a saying that “as we worship, so we believe,” which means that what we do and the prayers we say in the Liturgy teach us truths of the faith. This could not be more true of the rich prayers and symbolic actions of the Easter Vigil, the “Super Bowl” of all liturgies!

This year, this Easter Vigil, I invite and challenge you to put yourself in the place of the Israelites, struggling to follow God even as they fail over and over again, and even more so, in the place of the apostles who experienced the heart-wrenching sorrow, doubt and then bewilderment and joy of finding the tomb empty on Easter morning.

You are a vital part of this drama, one of God’s children in his family. Allow yourself to experience this family history, the history of salvation, in a new way, with fresh eyes and a heart open to the wonder of God really working in human history and still working in our lives today.

Experience this Easter Vigil as a love story. As you’re sitting in that pew on Holy Saturday, ask yourself, “Do I believe that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, not just for ‘humanity’ in general, but for me?”

Nicole Walz, a member of St. Peter Parish in St. Cloud, will start in June as the youth ministry director for St. Michael Parish in St. Cloud and St. Joseph Parish in Waite Park.