Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord
Sunday, April 17, 2022
Homily Notes for the Easter Vigil 2022
· The Sacred Triduum is not only the most solemn and important celebrations of the Catholic faith, but are also so packed with signs, symbols, rites and rituals that it is incredibly difficult to take them all in and even more difficult for a homilist to give worthy attention to everything that has unfolded!
· This nighttime celebration is so rich with signs and symbols, from the paschal fire and candle, to the majestic poetry of the Exultet hymn, to the story of salvation history we just heard, the ringing of bells ringing the Gloria and the exhausting alleluia that I just sung (and praise God my voice did not fail), there is so much I would like to say but will limit my reflection tonight on the special ceremony that will take place after this homily is complete.
· For the first time in our shrine, we will witness the baptismal font and water be solemnly blessed. Many of you know that the baptismal font in our church is more than 100 years old and has been blessed on many occasions in past when it was housed in Our Lady of Peace parish in Buffalo, NY, but for the first time in this new shrine church it will be blessed.
· A baptismal font is the gateway into our faith. Not only is it that place where those baptized begin the pilgrimage to heaven after Original Sin is washed away, the Holy Trinity begins to dwell in one’s soul and one is rightly called a child of God, but its positioning near the front doors of the nave is also significant in reminding us as we pass by it that it was here our pilgrimage of faith began and lead us towards the altar of God where our pilgrimage continues every time we receive the Eucharist, when we were confirmed, when marriages occur, when ordinations take place before and where one day we will be present before in a coffin or urn to mark our departure from this world onto eternity.
· Our baptismal font is also a beautiful symbol of the splendor of this holy night where around the world baptisms occur because of the unique octagonal shape of the font. The 8 sides of the font represent the 8 days of creation. Now we heard this evening in the Genesis account of the 7 days of creation, the OT’s poetic way of recalling the symphony God conducted long ago as slowly everything was brought into being, but this story of creation was not completed in the 7 symbolic days. No, only in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the 8th day, would creation be recreated by the love of God! And so every time someone is baptised into this 8 sided font, it is a witness to the saving power of the Lord’s resurrection that allowed salvation to come into our lives through water and Holy Spirit.
· During the blessing of the font tonight, we will first listen as we pray the litany of saints. This litany first gives glory to God and asks He show us mercy, and then we invoke the names of the Holy Mother of God, St. Joseph and the angels of God to intercede on our behalf. We also invoke the names of many saints, from all walks of life: Apostles, Popes, bishops, priests, religious men and women, martyrs, virgins, married couples, all saints of God who through the saving power of baptism walked the narrow path of faith and lived faithfully the baptismal promises that they or their parents made for them on the day of their baptism.
· After the litany I will then offer a lengthy blessing over the water that will be used in baptisms this year and which the faithful can also take home to have holy water in their homes.
· Please listen attentively to that blessing tonight and maybe even consider meditating on that blessing during your own personal prayer for all its rich symbolism that once again recall all the ways God used water to save his people in the past.
· One gesture of this blessing I find very significant is how the priest will take the pascal candle that was blessed at the start of tonight’s vigil and has been burning brightly this past hour or so and slowly lower it into the baptismal waters. Doing so is a symbol of how Christ, the light of the world, was buried in the tomb but through his resurrection rose to new life. So here the candle, our symbol of Christ, is lowered into the water to impart the power of his saving death on the cross into it and then rising the candle up shows how his resurrection to new life is also imparted on this water as a sign of our destiny to rise again with him.
· With the water and font blessed, we will light our tapers once again, symbols of the baptismal candle we were given long ago and asked to renew the promises of our baptism.
· It is a special opportunity to do so since most of us where babies when we were baptised and our parents made these promises on our behalf. Now we can yearly pronounce loud and clear that we believe in the faith we receive in baptism and will strive to continue to reject Satan and sin and walk in the freedom of the children of God.
· Finally, our rite will conclude with each of us being sprinkled with baptismal water. It is a reminder of how long-ago Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of the covenant that they forged with God, but now blood is replaced with the waters of baptism, the waters born from the saviour’s pierced side, while the blood will await us to be received when we partake of the Eucharist tonight.
· Christ is risen from the dead and in our blessing of the baptismal font and renewal of baptismal promises he also rises once again in our hearts and souls. May we not tire of thanking him for the gift of our salvation and continue to encourage many more to be baptised into his glory and journey with him onto eternal life.