The great hymn sung at the Easter Vigil is called the Exultet. It is an ancient piece and arguably one of the greatest proclamations that has ever been compiled about our salvation and the meaning of Easter. After the dramatic entry of the priest and ministers into the darkened church on Saturday evening and the lighting of the Easter candle, the priest sings out, “CHRIST OUR LIGHT!” – to which the people respond, “THANKS BE TO GOD!” The Easter Vigil has begun and the community celebrates the truth of Christ’s Resurrection.
The implications of the Resurrection are proclaimed in the Hymn that invites the world and all creation to rejoice because “Christ has conquered … and Darkness vanishes forever.” The beautiful chant reviews all of salvation history remembering the fall of Adam and Eve and proclaims it a “Happy Fault, a Necessary Evil – which gained for us so great a Redeemer”. “This is the night …” is proclaimed over and over in a style that emphasizes the immensity of the event.
In truth, the moment is too huge for us to capture. We live so deeply in our own skin and sinfulness that it is almost impossible to imagine freedom from the power of darkness in our world and in our lives. The powers of darkness have so creatively and effectively duped us into believing in a God who is limited in love and mercy that we don’t get the full impact of the Easter message. We see ourselves and not the God who created us as the center of this drama. With ourselves at the center-point we believe that all love and mercy must be somehow filtered through our senses and abilities.
The Easter proclamation denounces this self-delusion: “The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy.” The freedom that is offered us tonight can change our lives – can make everything different! For it is in Jesus Christ, in and through our baptism in the Son of God that we are free.
The Church teaches that we are “An Easter People”. What does that mean? For me this message gives to each of us the capacity to say NO to darkness; to hunger, violence, injustice and all of the “isms” of our time that diminish the dignity of people near and far. Not only does Easter give me a personal hope for tomorrow, it compels me to make tomorrow other than it would be if Christ had NOT risen from the dead!
With Christians throughout the world this Easter we proclaim, “Father how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love!
May the Hope that is ours in and through the Resurrection of Christ shine brilliantly in your life and through you, lessen the darkness of this world.