Easter Vigil - Fr. Pete Iorio
April 8, 2023
I almost got our parish into trouble because I was going to start this Easter vigil at 8:15 PM based on official sunset at 8:03 PM. According to the officials at the diocese, we received notice that parishes are not allowed to begin until 8:30 PM. It needs to be dark enough because the instruction in the Catholic Church says that the Easter Vigil needs to take place at night. I did discover a footnote from the US Catholic bishops, which says. 1 When Holy Saturday occurs during Daylight Saving Time, pastoral planners should contact local weather stations for the time sunset will occur. Another 45 minutes or one hour should be added to that time in order to determine the approximate time of nightfall. So those of us who are not night owls can thank our bishop for the extra 15 to 30 minutes earlier start time.
I hope that everyone here present experienced the magnificence of the light of Christ, symbolized by the Paschal candle and spreading to each of our candles, shattering the darkness in church.We read many selections from the Hebrew Scriptures, including from the Book of Genesis, with the creation of the world. We remember that the original darkness on earth was at Creation… “Now the earth was a formless void and God breathed over the waters. God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” A combination of God’s breath and God’s word produced the first light. The ancients identified God’s presence very much with light. For them, God was the antithesis of all darkness and, indeed, the symbol of God’s fidelity was the rainbow, namely, refracted light, which is light broken open to reveal its spectacular inner beauty.
But later there was a second darkness, an even deeper darkness, on Good Friday, between the 6th and 9th hour, when we were crucifying God, and as Jesus dying on the cross cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”. So there was utter darkness for 3 hours.
Irrespective of how literally or not we take this, what happened on Good Friday triggered a different kind of darkness, a moral one – the darkness of godlessness, hatred, paranoia, fear, misguided religion, cruelty, idolatry, ideology, and violence. This is the most blinding darkness of all.
God’s response to the darkness of Good Friday was to say a second time, Let there be light! The resurrection of Jesus is that new light, one which eclipses all other lights. God created the most staggering light of all through the resurrection.
And Jesus brings light to that darkness in the same way light was brought to the original creation, through God’s word and God’s breath. Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you!” are the resurrected Jesus’ way of saying, “Let there be light!” Then, just as at the original creation God’s breath begins to order the physical chaos, Jesus’ breath, the Holy Spirit, begins to order the moral chaos, continually turning darkness into light – hatred into love, bitterness into graciousness, fear into trust, false religion into true worship, conspiracy theories into truth, and vengeance into forgiveness.
People lament that they cannot watch the news because it is filled with moral darkness. Indeed, Good Friday still happens every day. But beyond wishful thinking and natural optimism, we Christians live in hope because we now know God’s response to any moral darkness. Even if we crucify God, God brings forth light that cannot be extinguished. God generates resurrection, the creation of new light.
One of my favorite mystics Saint Julian of Norwich believed in the resurrection and famously said: In the end, all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well.