“…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” (1 Corinthians 15: 17, 19)
SHINE… Thanks to Doraine, what a perfectly Providential OLW for this week! …If this OLW had been presented at another time of year, my reflections–most likely–would have been decidedly different. But with the reflection on “shine” coinciding with Holy Week, there is but one aspect of this word that is foremost in my mind, and that is its Easter Vigil liturgical connotation.
Unfortunately, I did not experience my first full-fledged Easter Vigil liturgical celebration until just a couple of years ago. “Unfortunately,” that is, because I wish I had experienced the Easter Vigil earlier in my life so that I could have enjoyed more of them!
By full-fledged, I mean that at nightfall, I witnessed the lighting of the outdoor “New Fire.” Supervised by the Eagle and other Scouts and their leaders, the huge bonfire turned crimson our little section of the night sky, and the crackling of the wood pierced the silence.
Although I don’t have a photo from my parish of their huge bonfire, here is an image of what I am trying to describe. (Please know that none of the illustrative photos in this post do justice to the firsthand visions!)
By User Per Johansson on sv.wikipedia (own work by Per Johansson) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In helping me to better realize and appreciate the reality of the Lord’s Glorious Resurrection, the Easter Vigil brought to life for me what St. Paul said, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19)
Yes, without the Resurrection which Jesus promised to accomplish on the third day after His death, as St. Paul said, we would be foolish to believe and to follow Him, even if St. Paul said earlier in the same letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:10) that in humility and meekness, we need to be “fools for Christ,” risking ridicule, prejudice, and persecution following Him, Who is our Lord and Savior.
And so with deep gratitude for the Easter Vigil, it is the sense of “shine” as it relates relates to liturgical fire/candle-light that I feel “compelled” to recall and to acknowledge as a milestone along my spiritual journey.
Then, with the Paschal Candle carried by the deacon leading the way, I joined in the procession into the darkened church, where some people who opted not to come outside had been listening to the prayers, broadcast through speakers.
By Nahefoto (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
At a certain point in the procession, when the deacon carrying the Candle was about midway between the main doors and the sanctuary, the flame from the Paschal Candle was used to light the tapers that all the members of the congregation held. In order for that to happen, a small group of altar servers lit the candles of those standing at end-aisle seats, and then, slowly but surely, as the flames were shared, person to person, the whole interior of the darkened church became filled with candlelight. What a moving sight to see and to participate in!
By Nahefoto (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When all the worship-leader members of the procession had taken their places in the sanctuary, and after various beautiful prayer-intonations, the individual taper-candles were extinguished (to be re-lit during the renewal of Baptismal promises later in the Vigil). Some artificial lights were then turned on, but the sanctuary remained in virtual darkness until the completion of six readings from the Old Testament.
Then! after the Old Testament readings were complete, but before the readings from the New Testament, the altar candles were lit and the pastor initiated the choir’s leading the congregation’s singing the hymn “Glory to God in the Highest.” Simultaneously with the singing, church bells were jubilantly ringing and the trumpets triumphantly were sounding, and the sanctuary lights, as well as the full interior lights of the church were fully engaged. Yes! lights, voices, bells, and trumpets were heralding the Resurrection, giving “Glory to God in the Highest.”
Although only a lit Paschal Candle is shown below, once the lights were on full force, the full array of flowers that were fully present in the sanctuary were visible, adding great gaiety to the lights and music.
By Andreas Janik (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Ever since that first Easter Vigil, the whole sense of the darkness of sin versus the Light of Christ, and the enormity of Christ’s Suffering, Death and Resurrection have been more real to me. The whole juxtaposition of “light” and “dark” in the Gospel of St. John makes more sense to me. And the Baptismal privilege and responsibility of sharing and spreading the Light of Christ (as we did lighting each other’s taper candles twice during the Vigil), so joyfully commemorated in the children’s song that I love to sing: “This Little Light of Mine,” has never been more paramount in my mind and heart.
Today, on this SJT that occurs during Holy Week, something else is on my heart, too, and that is that without Good Friday, there would be no Easter Vigil, and so I postpone my jubilation until Saturday evening, immersing myself in the sorrow and thanksgiving that is Good Friday, sorrowing for the sins–my sins– that caused the Son of God to suffer immeasurable pain, and thanking God that the story doesn’t end when the tomb is sealed on Good Friday. Death does not have the last word. The Word, Who is the Light of the World, rises again. And so on Good Friday, I do what St. Paul described is the posture of the believer; that I grieve, but not like those who have no hope (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Whether and however you celebrate this next holy days, I pray that God embrace you and those you love with His Merciful Light and Love.
As the refrain from a popular lively hymn “Shine, Jesus, Shine” says:
“Shine, Jesus, shine; fill this land with the Father’s glory.
Blaze, Spirit, blaze; set out hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow; flood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth your Word, Lord, and let there be light.”
(FYI: The YouTube video link has one visual lyric mistake; “kindly” should be “kingly.”)
http://www.cgpgrey.com [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
He is Risen. Amen.
http://www.ForestWander.com [CC BY-SA 3.0 us (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons