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April 3, 2021
The Easter Vigil begins in darkness. The darkness itself is the first movement of the liturgy. It represents all darkness, and all the meanings of darkness – devoid of light; evil thoughts, motivations, deeds; all that is hidden and secret, deceitful and dishonest, divisive and abusive, immoral and sinful. It’s the darkness of our world, and the darkness in our hearts. If we come to the vigil and restlessly and impatiently fidget in the dark “until something happens,” we will miss the power of what is about to happen. So, we prepare by readying ourselves to experience the despair of darkness.
Then a light is struck. It breaks into the darkness and the priest prays: “O God, who through your son bestowed upon the faithful the fire of your glory, sanctify + this new fire, we pray, and grant that, by these Paschal celebrations, we may be so inflamed with heavenly desires that with minds made pure, we may attain festivities of unending splendor.”
The Easter Candle is lit from this primordial fire. In the darkness of the sanctuary, small candles are lit from it, and light ripples until the whole assembly is illuminated with small white flames. Against this backdrop of the struggle between darkness and light, the Easter Exsultet is intoned:
…”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.”
Listen to the monks of Saint John’s Abbey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVlOGED_avw