A warm welcome to the family and friends of our five men and three women who will become Catholic Christians at this Divine Liturgy. In the Mother of all Vigils, God bestows upon us, in word and sacrament, through fire and water, the inestimable grace of rebirth in Christ, and no Easter Vigil is complete without a baptism or two. For the faith of these eight children of God, we give thanks and glory to His Divine Majesty. I also want to thank the many people who have worked hard over the last few days to give glory to God in this beautiful liturgy: Brendon Ford and our choir, his brother Martin who has spent the last two days camped out managing logistics, Ed Tobin our sacristan and the small army of altar servers, Claire Herrick and the RCIA team, including sponsors, Thelma and our “flower team,” including John Sellai from Pinelli’s Flowerland, and the whole parish infrastructure that supports the delivery of these divine sacraments day in and day out.
The Easter Vigil
The Paschal vigil unfolds in four parts: First, blessed fire, which breaks through a pitch-dark church, signifying Christ’s resurrection. In bearing our little candles in procession to the sanctuary, we bravely bring faith into a darkness that has not and cannot overcome it. The tabernacle stands empty as we begin the Mass, but God will return in response to our pilgrimage to this church, His house on earth. Second, an hour of solemn Scripture proclamation, retelling our essential history from Creation to Redemption. This is real history—His-Story, our story, the greatest story ever told: God creates the cosmos, Abraham binds his son Isaac, Moses leads the children of Israel through the Red Sea, and the new Moses, Christ Jesus, leads the children of God through baptism to eternal freedom. Third, the Liturgy of Initiation, when the priest confers baptism and confirmation on these eight new members of our family, and witnesses the renewal of baptismal promises from the rest of us. Fourth is the Sacred Eucharist itself, where we take our place at Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary, relived through the sacraments of bread and wine at this sacred banquet. The Mass delivers this final gift, bread for the journey, so that we will have the strength to make it all the way, not only to the end of this three-hour Mass, but to heaven itself.
Our Final Loneliness
“Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness,” wrote a young theology professor in 1968. “In his Passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there is he. Hell is thereby overcome, or to be more accurate, death, which previously was hell, is hell no longer.” The author’s name is Joseph Ratzinger, whom we know as Pope Benedict XVI. Little Joseph was born to Joseph and Maria Ratzinger on April 16, 1927, which that year was Holy Saturday. He was born at 2am, and brought later that day to the local parish, where he was baptized at the Easter Vigil. He was an Easter baby. And so are all of you. Every Day is Easter for Christians. Every day, every Mass, we are reborn by word and sacrament, by water and fire: the dew of God’s kindness and the fire of his love. The only difficult thing in life is believing in his never-failing love for his children. The only thing that can keep us out of heaven is disbelieving in the eternal happiness that he offers us.
By this gift of baptism, we have found unending life. We have found Christ. To our eight beautiful candidates for the sacraments: dearest Pamela, Kevin, Linda, Susan, David, Naoki, Raghav, and Hebert: we welcome you to the land where the sun never sets, and death is no more. With Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and St. Joseph, Master of God’s house, with your guardian angels and patron saints, and with good people who believe in something greater than themselves, we welcome you to the Catholic Church, the community of believers, and the communion of saints. May we all live and die holding tightly to the faith that we professed on the day of our own baptism.