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Abbot Brendan’s Easter Vigil Homily

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! (Khristós Anésti! Alithós Anésti!) Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

We have celebrated the resurrection of the Lord in darkness and light and by listening to the Word of God and soon we will do so in water and in sacrament. We need to touch and taste, smell, see and hear the Risen Lord; as did Mary Magdalene, the apostles, the doubting Thomas and the disciples on the road to Emmaus. That is why we are here this night. That is what we are about.

We began this night in darkness, for it was so in the beginning when the divine wind swept over the deep and it was so in the tomb where they laid the body of the Lord after he was taken down from the cross. And then God said, let there be light. We blessed and lit our pillar of fire, our first encounter with the Risen Lord. This wonderful light consumes itself to give us light. That light is shared from this single source and so it represents the Church which takes her light from Christ. “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.” This light entices us beyond the darkness into this space of resurrection into this day without night. And so we sang our Exultet and the darkness in our own lives gave way to this Easter light.

We listened to the Word, a word as sweet as honey – from creation and the tale of that happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer, through the journey of faith and discovery made by God’s holy people. God made the world so that there could be a space where he might communicate his love and from which the response of love might come back to him. The paschal mystery is everybody passing dry-shod through the sea, not just the Israelites. We listened to the fulfilment of promises and covenants and now we need to let go of all that binds us, enslaves us and holds us back from making our own crossing of the sea. Only then can we finally come to the tomb with the women in the early morning and see that it is empty and hear the message of the angel, for this is the night!

In a few moments we will move to the font, the Church’s womb, and bless the Easter water; the water of life. In baptism St Paul tells us, we go into the tomb with Jesus and there on the first day of the week we rise to life with him. This water flows from the side of Christ and all that it touched was healed and saved.

Finally, we will arrive at the altar, the sacrament and we will eat and drink and He will be present among us as he promised. Here the Lord will put the jug and towel into our hands so that we can become truly Christian following his word and example in the world and there we will be invited to take up our own cross and follow Him.

After the resurrection, which we celebrate with such joy this night, the Lord is not so easy to recognise. Mary Magdalene mistook him for the gardener, the disciples on the road to Emmaus thought he was a fellow traveller, the apostles by the sea of Tiberias believed him to be a lone fisherman. He is revealed and concealed in the face of a stranger, just as he is revealed and concealed this night as light, word, water and sacrament.

As Christians then we cannot be content with the familiar and the comfortable. Nor should we ever fear the stranger in our midst as so many do today. They are still in slavery in Egypt. They do not know that He is Risen and He is Here!

But it is all for nothing if I have not met him here tonight; if I do not encounter the Risen Lord on the road; if I do not hear him say my name, as Mary of Magdala did; if I do not put my hand into his side with Thomas, or hear him call to me to come and have breakfast on the shore of the lake. Christ is Risen; but have I experienced what that means? This is the night when I can behold his light in darkness, hear the story of my salvation in his word, be touched by the cleansing waters of baptism and sit at table with him as He breaks the bread. If this is truly so for me, then I will leave here a changed person and I will see the world and my brothers and sisters differently and only then can I too fall down before Him as he walks towards the Magdalene in the garden.

The resurrection frees me from my bondage and opens my eyes so that I can behold the truth of the final words in the account of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good”. The presence of the Risen Lord has become the blood marking the doorposts of our hearts, for we are Christians and we believe. The tomb is empty, He is Risen! We are no longer afraid.

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! (Khristós Anésti! Alithós Anésti!)

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