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Truths of Easter unchanged by crisis, Bishop says on Vigil livestream

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The Easter Vigil Mass begins in a dark church that gradually is filled with hundreds of flickering candles lit from a large paschal candle that symbolizes Jesus, the light of the world.

This year, in the middle of a global pandemic, parishioners are under stay-at-home orders, and public Masses have been suspended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Gatherings are capped at 10 people. 

But 10 was apparently enough to livestream a solemn and beautiful Easter Vigil Mass from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More on Holy Saturday night. Thousands from across the diocese and beyond, perhaps holding their own candles in front of flickering computer screens, were able to experience the Vigil’s moving Service of Light, and hear the readings, music and solemn chants. They could see the spring flowers that filled the sanctuary, even if they couldn’t smell the incense. 

Noting that “we need some good news,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge proclaimed the Easter message that the resurrected Jesus is alive and with us.

“This is the truth we celebrate on this sacred night and throughout the Easter season and it is not changed by any situation or crisis,” Bishop Burbidge said. “It is the good news that allows us to sing, even at this difficult moment: ‘Alleluia, Alleluia.’ ”

Bishop Burbidge noted that the Vigil Mass “began in darkness, symbolizing the darkness in our world, nation and lives. Acknowledging the darkness is a moment of grace, if it leads us to a deeper reliance on God and a firm belief in his power to make all things new, as proclaimed in the readings this evening.”

At the beginning of the liturgy, “we blessed the Easter fire and lit the paschal candle; symbolizing that Jesus Christ, by his cross and resurrection, was not defeated but conquered the power of sin, darkness, suffering and even death. Thus, the words of the Easter Proclamation, sung beautifully by our deacon, made this exhortation: Exult, let all corners of the earth be glad ... for we stand in the awesome glory of Christ’s holy light.   

“What does it mean for us to stand and to walk in the Light of Christ?  It means that we leave behind the darkness of sin and walk in the new life of grace. It means we are not overwhelmed by our sufferings but trust that when united to the Lord’s, we will come to share in his glory. It means that as we mourn the death of loved ones, we do not despair, knowing that he promises eternal life to all who follow him. It means that in the midst of the pandemic, we are not overcome by fear but find our courage in realizing the Lord is with us and will deliver us. It means that we continue to find ways to help and encourage one another, especially those who are afraid, alone and in need. In all these ways, you stand and walk in the Light of Christ and in newness of life,” he said.

Bishop Burbidge pointed out that the rites of initiation of adults into the church that traditionally take place at the Easter Vigil — baptisms, confirmations and reception of their first Holy Communion — had been postponed due to the coronavirus. 

“While that will not occur this evening, God willing, it will be real soon. In the meantime, we assure the elect and catechumens of our thoughts and prayers as they continue their preparation,” he said. 

The beautiful Litany of the Saints was sung, and the Bishop blessed the water in the baptismal font, before the renewal of baptismal promises. He sprinkled holy water from the font on those present, as well as, seemingly, in the direction of the camera, for those watching from afar. 

And as he has throughout Holy Week, the Bishop invited those unable to receive the Eucharist to make a spiritual communion. “As you make your spiritual communion tonight ask God for the grace to celebrate, proclaim and share the good news of great joy: Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead; he is our Light and the Hope of the World ... Alleluia. Alleluia.”





© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020