“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.” Deacon Logan Parrish chanted these words of the Exsultet in the dimly lit Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on Saturday, April 3. He and Deacon Keeton Lockwood assisted Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at the Easter Vigil Mass, with concelebrants Father Jacob Runyon and Father Peter Dee De.
Always held as the light of day gives way to night, Easter Vigil symbolizes the expectant waiting for the Light of the World to come in His glory. The solemn celebration began in hushed darkness with the kindling of the holy fire, from which the paschal candle was lit. Bishop Rhoades prayed over the candle and inserted five grains of incense atop the cross on the candle, representing the five wounds of Christ, intoning, “By His holy and glorious wounds, may Christ the Lord guard us and protect us, amen.”
Bishop Rhoades and the congregation processed inside the darkened cathedral behind the lighted paschal candle, from which came the only source of light. This illustrates Christ as the light coming into a world of darkness and despair. Three times the Lumen Christi was sung during the reverent procession. And bit by bit, the church was illuminated by individual candles whose flames began from the paschal candle.
The Exsultet, or Easter Proclamation, dates back to the Middle Ages and recounts God working throughout salvation history, with the glory of Jesus’ resurrection as the crowning moment in time. The eloquent hymn praises Christ’s sacrifice and is always meant to be sung, as Deacon Parrish did so beautifully. One sentence of the ancient hymn passionately articulates the reverence and awe of the evening: “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.”
Much of the symbolism of Easter Vigil flows from the traditional celebration of the Passover and the Church’s Jewish roots. The Old Testament readings in the first part of the Mass recall the old covenant God had made with Israel and how He had brought His chosen people out of slavery in Egypt and promised a Messiah to come. In the interim between Old Testament and New Testament readings, the Cathedral’s melodious choir sang the Gloria accompanied by a joyful ringing of bells as the church was fully lighted.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades called the eve of Easter Sunday “a most sacred night, the most sacred night, in the history of humanity. It is the night in which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life. We are here in our cathedral to keep vigil, to remember Jesus’ Passover. We do so by listening to God’s word and celebrating His mysteries.”
He explained the significance of the readings to those awaiting baptism and a “new life in Christ. … Baptism brings the ultimate freedom; freedom from the slavery of sin and the power of death, through our being incorporated into Christ and His Body the Church, giving us the power and grace to make it to the promised land of heaven.”
All Catholics are invited to renew their baptismal promises at Easter, and to remember that God has commissioned the faithful to spread the good news of Christ’s resurrection. The bishop explained that Jesus’ ministry began in Galilee with the calling of the first disciples.
He continued, “Now, back in Galilee, the Risen Jesus makes them missionary disciples. This is a clear mandate for them and for us, His disciples today. It is a mandate, not just an option. We who have been baptized, who have been strengthened by the Holy Spirit in confirmation and nourished by Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist, are also commanded to go forth, to live and share the Gospel, to make it known by the witness of our words and actions. What’s so beautiful is that we’re not alone in this. Jesus is alive and is with us.”
This year, four adult members of the parish were baptized into the Catholic faith at Easter Vigil. Along with one candidate for full communion in the Church, they were also confirmed by Bishop Rhoades and received their first Communion. One child, Kurtis Ballentine, the young son of Brandon Ballentine, was also welcomed into the Church alongside his father.
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