Tuesday, 18 April 2017

EASTER HOPE


The death of Jesus on the cross brought desolation,   despair, a  sense of loss to those who had loved and admired Him. The disciples on the road to Emmaus spoke for all of them, “Our hope had been that He would be the one to set Israel free,” (Lk.24.21).   


Joyfully the Easter  Liturgy  has celebrated  His Resurrection. However, before any such joy there were some dreadful moments, such  as when the closest of His friends found His  tomb to be empty.  Losing a loved one, then losing His body – undoubtedly here a sense  of   emptiness and hopelessness.

It is into this emptiness that the risen Jesus begins  to  pour FAITH – belief  that He, thought to be a disappointing failure, was, in fact,  a triumphant hero. 

Upon this Faith Foundation Jesus builds   HOPE – confidence of  their lives being once more built around Jesus; once more it would be possible to have expectations of Jesus.

 From the  first day of the week following His  crucifixion Jesus appeared to His friends  with greetings such as, “Be not afraid, peace be with you, give me some food, look at my wounds,   even touch them, I’m not a ghost!”

 On these occasions they overcame their doubts as they received the GIFT OF FAITH  so as  to  believe that  Jesus  had, indeed, achieved what He came to do – conquer sin and death  and then  pass into Glory.

 What is more, by His resurrection from the dead Jesus had  extracted hope out of the ashes of despair.      This GIFT OF HOPE  answered the question,     “How does this  personal triumph of Jesus  affect us?”  

Interesting that the first person to be assured of a future with Jesus was the thief hanging on cross next to Him!   "In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise,” (Lk23.43).

 As for ourselves, we can take to ourselves what  Jesus said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die,” (Jn.11.25).

What better could we hope for?

Peter Clarke, O.P. 


Friday, 14 April 2017

"THE LIGHT OF CHRIST!"



What drama the Paschal -Easter -Vigil!  On Good Friday, we, with the Crucified Christ, were plunged into the darkness of death. On Holy Saturday we remained grieving for Jesus and for our deceased loved ones.

Then, at dusk, the liturgy of the Paschal Vigil begins. Outside the church a fire is lit, signifying the spark of new life.  The Paschal Candle –representing the risen Lord - is lit from the fire.

Triumphantly the deacon holds aloft the Paschal Candle and leads us into the darkened church.   Three times he halts and sings, “The Light of Christ!” All reply, “Thanks be to God!”  At the first pause those within this procession light their candles from the Paschal Candle; at the second pause the candles of the congregation are lit from those in the procession; at the last pause the candles in the sanctuary are lit and all the church lights are switched on. 

Every detail of this drama proclaims the risen Lord’s victory over the darkness of sin and death.  He is, indeed, the Light of the World, whom the Darkness of Evil could not overcome.

Spreading light  from the solitary flame of the Paschal Candle to the remotest corners of the church expresses the missionary work of the Church -to hand on the light of Faith, the light of Life, which we have received from the risen Lord,  drawing people into the Paschal mystery of His death and resurrection. 

We hand on what we have received -that’s what ‘tradition’ is all about! As we process through the darkness and holding our candles the Pilgrim Church brings the light of the risen Lord to the world.  With Christ, we have become lights to the world.  The light we shed is derived from Him, not from ourselves.

Addressing the Paschal Candle of the Risen Lord, the deacon then sings the ‘Exultet.’  This proclaims the triumph of light over darkness, firstly, as God created the universe, and then the renewal of creation through the Paschal mystery. In the prologue to his Gospel John unites these two themes, as he declares the creative Word as being the light shining in the darkness, which could neither understand nor overcome the light. 

The ‘Exultet’ then outlines salvation history, with the emphasis on God delivering His people by night from slavery in Egypt, and leading them by the pillar of fire into the Promised Land.  Through Jesus the light of the risen Lord has led us in a new Exodus from the darkness of sin to the light of life as the children of God.

The Paschal Mystery is then linked to our baptism.  As the Paschal Candle is plunged into the font, and the water is blessed, the font becomes both the tomb and womb for the children of God.  Through baptism we die with Christ to sin and rise with Him to new life. 
At our baptisms we are entrusted with a candle lit from the Paschal Candle and urged to keep it shining throughout our lives.  We become children of the light and at the Vigil renew our baptismal commitment to walk in the light of Christ and reject the ways of darkness. This is the most appropriate time to be baptised.

The celebration of the light of the Paschal Vigil is concluded when all the bells are rung and we sing the ‘Gloria.’ -a joyful celebration of the dawn of the bright new Day of the Risen Lord!

The Paschal Vigil uses the deeply symbolic imagery of light, darkness, fire and water, accompanied by inspiring words, to express the mystery of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection.    It is a very dramatic celebration.  Sadly,  some consider this to be less important than Christmas midnight Mass.

Isidore Clarke O.P.

 
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