ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REV. BARRY GRIFFIN, RECTOR
Preacher: Alleluia. Christ is risen.
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
The Easter Vigil is a very ancient rite. We know that it was practiced in the 2nd century Christian community, perhaps even earlier. From the beginning, the Easter Vigil has been known as the “Christian Passover”. As the Jewish Passover celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from the Egyptians, so this Christian Passover celebrates the victory of Christ over death and the deliverance of the Christian community, through Christ, in resurrection. The Vigil is a passage – a passage from Holy Week into Easter. We are “passing over” tonight, moving from darkness to light, from death to life.
In the Jewish Passover ceremony, the question is asked, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” and the answer comes in the form of a story. Through story and the re-creation of the Passover meal, past becomes present, and present becomes past. On this special night Jews everywhere and in all centuries experience deliverance with their brothers and sisters. All Jews are united, regardless of their geographic or historical differences.
This Christian Passover called the Easter Vigil is deeply rooted in its Jewish predecessor. In fact, the only lesson which our Prayer Book specifies as mandatory is the Exodus reading – the deliverance of the Jews at the Red Sea.
We began the Easter Vigil with the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the Exsultet. As if in response to the question “Why is this night different from all other nights?” the words of the Exsultet explain:
“This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.
“This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.
“This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.”
Through the story of God’s Passionate interaction with humanity we are reminded of our heritage, and through the re-creation of the Last Supper, Christ’s Passover meal, we participate in and make present that saving event which unites us with all Christians: living, dead, and yet unborn. The past, the present, the future all become one. In the doing of our liturgy “in remembrance of Him,” we discover anew our identity and purpose. We know who we are, to whom we belong, and where we are headed. Through our participation in this remembrance, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a present reality.
Let us continue now in that present reality, joining our voices with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven who forever sing and proclaim the glory of His Name.
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