Saturday, 22 March 2008

Easter Vigil, Year A, Shaftesbury

Mt 28:1-10
Turn off lights, leave Paschal candle and altar candles lit, read sermon using a little candle.
I want to say a few words about 2 things: hope, and the symbolism of the Easter Candle.

Pope Benedict recently wrote an encyclical on hope. He commented on the fact that many people in our modern society live without hope, they live thinking that this world is all there is, they live thinking that things can’t really get better, or, if they can get better only as a rather limited this-worldly utopia. Many of us will know people who have this kind of existential despair. Some of us will have known it ourselves, or may periodically feel bouts of it.

If life consists only of life in this world, and, as it evident, there is much suffering in this world: How can we hope? What can ‘hope’ possibly mean?

The light in the darkness, is the sign of the reality that is our Hope, and that Hope has a name, and His name is ‘Christ’.
The light in the darkness is a sign that the darkness has not triumphed. Even when darkness seems to have nearly encompassed everything, the light remains. Darkness is real, but it has not triumphed.

To move from the sign to the reality, we must look to the Empty Tomb. The Empty Tomb contains the clearest sign that Death has not triumphed, in fact, Death has been defeated.
Death, judging by the rules of what those without faith think they know, there is no overcoming Death.
But if we look to Him who left the Empty Tomb, then Faith teaches us that Death can be overcome because Death HAS been overcome.
Death and suffering are real, but they are not the final word, and they will ultimately be extinguished by the light that was not extinguished.

We heard in that Gospel text, angel said, “He is not here. He has risen as He said He would.”
“as he said he would” –these words are pivotal.
These words tell us He is Lord, he is the master of time and Lord of History.
“as he said he would” –He knows what He is about, and He is doing it.

To come back to the candle: The blessing words I said as I traced the symbols on it:
He is the “alpha and omega”, Greek for: He is the Beginning and the End
“All time belongs to Him” –why every year the date of the year is put on the candle: 2008.
He is the cause of creation, and He is bringing creation to Himself.

Not even the death and suffering that entered this world with sin can stop His plan.
He took death in His hands on the Cross and defeated it.
Five grains of incense, for the five wounds of the cross, were pressed into the Easter Candle
Why? To show that He has sanctified suffering
He has made it an offering to the Father
He has made it the means of our transition to new life.

The light of the Easter candle is not yet spread through the whole world, and has not yet spread through the whole if any one of us here
But it is the sign that the light cannot be extinguished
And will, in fact, be triumphant and extinguish darkness.
Faith knows this in the mind, grasps it as the truth that endures in darkness.
Hope, the hope that Pope Benedict reminds us must characterise a Christian in our modern world, hope does not just know this in the mind, but in the will, sets the heart on the goal of Christ, on the goal of the Light that cannot be extinguished, the light that enables us to hope even in darkness, the hope that enables us to make sense of the angel’s words: “Do not be afraid”.
This is what the candle shows us.

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