Immersed in Christ: April 11, 2020
Holy Saturday of the Lord's Passion
The liturgy teaches us to meditate on the word of God by giving us examples of meditation. One of the most all-inclusive meditations on the mystery and gift of the death and resurrection of Jesus is the Exsultet or “Easter Proclamation.”
First the presiding priest lights the Easter candle from the new fire that was kindled in darkness at the doors of the church as a symbol of the new light Jesus brought into the world. He prays in the name of all: “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” The victory of Christ is a victory of Truth over error. His light is the “light of life.”
God’s word is a light to “walk in.” We reflect on God’s word as disciples to find in it a “way of life.” This Light is indistinguishable from the Life of Christ, and it is only “in Christ” as sharers in his divine life by grace, that we can see and understand: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” 1
The priest or deacon processes through the church, carrying the Easter candle. Three times he stops, lifts the candle high, and sings, “Christ our Light!” The people respond,” Thanks be to God!” This is a proclamation of faith and commitment that affirms our identity as Christians. We are the people who have chosen the light of Christ to be our light rather than the darkness of human culture. We recognize his teaching as a gift. We are grateful for it.
The “gift of the Holy Spirit” we associate with Baptism is Understanding. The “fruit of the Spirit” is Joy. This is the Light that is Life. 2
The first theme of the Exsultet is “Rejoice!”
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne. Jesus Christ, our King, is risen.
Rejoice O earth… glory fills you…
Because Christ “has risen… has conquered… darkness vanishes forever.”
Rejoice O Mother Church! Exult in glory…. Let this place resound with joy.
If we cannot resonate with that, we have not heard the Good News. We need to immerse ourselves in discipleship, absorbing the message of the Gospel.
The Exsultet now summarizes what the Good News is. It concentrates our attention on the five basic mysteries. promises and commitments of Baptism.
A New Identity
Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace….
This is the mystery that includes all others: our transformation from slaves of sin into free children of the Father through the new identity that is ours. By incorporation into his body on the cross, dying and rising in him, we have “become Christ.”
Christ has ransomed us with his blood and paid the price of Adam’s sin…
A price, not of punishment due, but of ransom from servitude to “the world, the flesh and the devil.” Because “Christ, the true Lamb is slain,” we died in him, our sins were annihilated, and we rose as his body, a “new creation,” blessed with the very “holiness of God.” 3
This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin.
The mystery of this transformation is that we are now the “light of the world.” We enjoy the enlightenment promised to those who commit themselves as disciples, students of the word of God.
If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 4
Power in the Spirit
Freedom has a purpose. The delivered have a destiny.
You freed the people of Israel from their slavery and led them dry-shod through the sea.
The Red Sea was a symbol and preview Baptism. By passing through its waters the Chosen People were freed from subjection to the laws and culture of Egypt in order to reveal to the world the radical freedom of those who know the One Commandment:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
We who passed through the water of Baptism were freed from slavery to any authority but God’s. We obey human laws with the “freedom of the children of God, in “singleness of heart,” with undivided loyalty to God, obeying humans, not “in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” 6
To accept this freedom is to renounce slavery to our culture. We don’t conform to what is expected in our society. We don’t “follow any of the gods of the peoples who are all around us.” We don’t assume their attitudes. We don’t embrace their values. We are different. In Baptism we were consecrated as prophets, “anointed” with the “power of the Spirit.”
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.
To be a “prophet” is to profess the faith through a lifestyle that doesn’t make sense without it: one that cannot be explained except through the Light and Life of the risen Jesus present and active within us, sweeping aside darkness and fear of death. This is the core of Christian witness.
This is our Passover feast, when Christ, the true Lamb is slain whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers….
We are sanctified as a community. It is not just our hearts, but our homes that are consecrated.
Christians everywhere… are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
Acts 2:42-46 tells us Christianity is a communal experience:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.... Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God....
The mystery of our baptismal anointing as priests in the Priest consecrates and commits us to be priests to one another, to minister to each other at home and in church as family. And promises us a posterity. Our lives will be fruitful in divine life for others.
As children of the Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name,” we are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters to one another in the “family of believers.” We help all to grow in love for the Father, in union with the Son, through the gifts of the Spirit given to all for the good of all:
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
We must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together… as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. 7
We are sent, not just to one another, but to extend the family of God until it embraces the whole human race. Jesus came to establish the “reign of God” on earth; to draw all of humanity into the “peace and unity of his kingdom.” And he has entrusted this task to us. This is the “mystery of meaningfulness” that transforms, redirects, and enhances the value of all our human labor in the world. By our baptismal consecration as “kings” we were appointed and empowered by God to establish the reign of his love over every area and activity of human life on earth. And we were promised victory.
The power of this holy night dispels all evil… brings mourners joy. It casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth and humans are reconciled with God.
This is the image of the “wedding banquet of the Lamb,” where all will be celebrating together, in perfect union with each other and with God. All offenses forgotten in unrestricted forgiveness; all differences and divisions overcome in total reconciliation. This is the “Kingdom of God.” In God’s time it is already established. In our time we are committed and empowered to persevere in faith and fidelity until Christ comes again in triumph.
We have “become Christ”
All is included in the central mystery of “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the favor of sharing in the divine life of God. We have “become Christ,” committed to let him live and act with us, in us and through us to “save” everything we are involved in. This commits us to seek ongoing enlightenment through discipleship, and to embrace his mission as prophets, priests and stewards of his kingship.
That is the mystery and promise of Easter, the call and commitment we exult in.
Initiative: Renew your Baptismal promises during the Easter Vigil as a conscious commitment to live out in joy the five mysteries and commitments of your Baptism.
1 John 1:4, 8:11; Psalms 36:9, 56:13; Proverbs 6:23; Matthew 11-25-30. 2 See Isaiah 11:2-3; Galatians 5:22-23. 3 2 Corinthians 5:21. 4 John 8:31-32. 5 Deuteronomy 6:4-14. 6 Romans 8:15-27; Ephesians 6:5-6. 7 John 15:16; 1Corinthians 4:14-15, 12:1-27; Ephesians 3:14-15. 4:11-16; 1 Peter 2:17; Galatians 4:19;