The Church quieted itself after Jesus’ Passion and death on Good Friday while he remained in the tomb. Then, as promised, he rose from the dead.
That miracle of our faith was celebrated once again at the Easter Vigil, one of the Church’s most beautiful liturgies and another in the continuous three-day sacred paschal triduum that will conclude on Easter Sunday. (See photo gallery above.)
The faithful gathered in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist the evening of Holy Saturday, April 16, to participate in the celebration of Jesus’ rising from the dead. During the liturgy, four people were baptized, received their first Communion and were confirmed. A fifth, who previously had been baptized, also received her first Communion and was confirmed, brining her into full communion with the Church.
The liturgy began on a solemn note as the church lights were turned off. In the darkness, at the back of the cathedral, Bishop Edward Malesic lit and blessed a fire. He also blessed the 2022 paschal candle, which would be used during the baptisms. The faithful lit small candles from the paschal candle and the light gradually returned to the church.
After processing to the front of the cathedral, the deacon placed the paschal candle in its holder in the front of the sanctuary near the ambo. He then chanted the Exsultet, the proclamation of Easter, which was a departure from the solemn chants of Good Friday.
Unlike a normal Mass during which there are one or two readings and the Gospel, the Easter Vigil has seven total readings which tell the story of creation, the slavery and exodus of the Jewish people, the parting of the Red Sea, the salvation of the Jews and the Resurrection of Jesus. Between the readings, the cantor and choir led the faithful in in singing a series of canticles and psalms.
Before the epistle and Gospel, the last two readings, the Gloria was sung for the first time since the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.
In his homily, Bishop Malesic reflected on how we visit the graves of loved ones because their bodies are there. Yet in Jerusalem, people visit an empty grave – the place where Jesus was laid before his Resurrection.
“On Easter Sunday, the whole Church gazes in amazement at an empty tomb. The symbol of death – a grave – has become the symbol of life,” he said, noting that is the central mystery of our faith. “Jesus came back from the dead never to die again. It is why Peter and the others went out into the world to tell the good news: new and eternal life is possible. They had seen it. They became witnesses of it. And we believe that testimony is true.”
Darkness turned to light, the bishop said, with Jesus’ Resurrection showing us that death is defeat4ed by life. He said Jesus tells us to “Follow me,” and we do – to life in abundance.
“Tonight, we will baptize Alexander, Jordan, Isabella and Giuliano and confirm them and give them first holy Communion, along with Katyln. Let me just say a few words to the five of you. You help us to renew our faith in Jesus. You have found him and remind us that our faith is a great gift,” the bishop said.
“Sometimes, we take our faith for granted, but your desire to receive these sacraments makes us realize once again that we have a pearl of great price, something that we should be ready to give everything away to secure. Give your life to Jesus and let his Resurrection give you the hope that there is more to this life than we can imagine – and that heaven awaits for all of us who follow him from death to life.
“As you receive these sacraments, we pledge to share our faith with you, too. May we build each other up in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead,” he added.
After the Gospel, those to be baptized were called to the front of the congregation and presented for the sacrament. They professed their faith and each was baptized by the bishop, received a white garment and a candle. They shared the light from that candle with their family, friends and others in the church. The rest of the congregation renewed their baptismal promises and the bishop and deacon passed through the cathedral sprinkling the faithful with holy water.
All five candidates were presented for confirmation by their sponsors and came into full communion with the Church.
As the Mass continued, they received holy Communion for the first time, also.
After Mass, the bishop reminded the congregation what a joyful night it was, congratulating the five new members of the Church. He also expressed gratitude for those who helped guide them through their faith journey, including their sponsors, wishing everyone a happy Easter.
The bishop greeted the faithful and posed for photos with the new members of the faith community.