Sunday, April 8, 2012

This Night

It is easy to skip from the drama and agony of Christ's Passion to the glory and joy of the resurrection.  But do not skip that Saturday in between.  The disciples kept watch that first Easter vigil, but they did not yet know what they were waiting for.

They kept faith, though the One they believed in was dead.
They did not let go of hope, though they no longer knew what they hoped for.
They could not forget Love, though we had all killed Him.

The faith and hope that come in the midst of these circumstances is something altogether different than we usually imagine.
Faith can be holding fast to the promise even as we are haunted by the thought, "Maybe I just imagined it." This is not blind faith, but faith with eyes wide open to all the evidence to the contrary... Of Abraham, St. Paul writes, "In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told"- even though he was a hundred years old and as good as dead... Hope against hope; hope amidst the wreckage of shattered hope; hope that is there is hope beyond hope. Faith and hope are finally one. Hope is faith disposed toward the future; it is faith holding on; it is faith holding out is is faith defiantly, trustingly hurled into the present absence; it is handing over our hopelessness. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."*
For all those who struggle and believe they are past the end of their rope, this is the faith and the hope that I pray for you today.  Then, like the disciples, the utter darkness of the circumstances can be broken by that single Paschal light.  And suddenly a voice rings out into the darkness and explains how our sorrow has become our joy.

...This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea

This is the night 
that a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld...

O truly blessed night, 
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ arose from the underworld!

This is the night of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty...

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.**

Wishing you all a happy and blessed Easter!

*Death on a Friday Afternoon, by Richard John Neuhaus, p. 233
**Excerpts from the Exsultet (the Easter Proclamation) from the Holy Saturday liturgy


  1. I love the Exsultet!
    Happy Easter!!

  2. I had not read this before. Thanks for posting it!
    Happy Easter!!!

  3. I love this! I was actually kind of wondering what to "do" about Holy Saturday - like are we supposed to celebrate it or mope about on it or what? This is a great answer!