On Holy Saturday, April 4, 2015, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Easter Vigil Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. This year, more than 1,400 men and women were welcomed into the Church during the Easter Vigil in parishes throughout the Diocese of Raleigh. The “Elect” received the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. Those termed “Candidates,” either having been baptized in other Christian traditions or who were baptized in the Catholic faith but never completed the Sacraments of Initiation, entered into full communion in the Church.
The Easter Vigil is rich in tradition and symbolism. The Mass is considered the most beautiful liturgy in the Catholic Church. With the faithful gathered inside the church, all the lights are off and the tabernacle is empty. Outside, a fire is lit and blessed by the presider. From that fire, the Paschal Candle is lit and blessed.
The candle is then processed through the church, with the deacon lifting the candle at three different times, singing: Christ our light (Lumen Christi) and the congregation sings in reply: Thanks be to God (Deo gratias). From the Paschal Candle, everyone lights their candle and continues in procession until the whole church is alight. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World. The Mass then proceeds to the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism and the Liturgy of Eucharist.
In his homily, Bishop Burbidge said, “Out of great love for us, God wants us to know order and serenity in our lives; true freedom and genuine peace; and to have the confidence and conviction that nothing of this world can defeat us, not even death. That is why He invites us ‘to live as children of the Light.’ We do so when we consistently practice our faith; find our guidance in His Word and our strength in the Sacraments; and when we demonstrate in loving service our love for God and one another.”
The Bishop concluded, “The Light is shining----for it is true: Jesus Christ is Risen today! In Him we find our freedom, our peace and the newness of life both now and forever.”
On Easter Sunday, Bishop Burbidge will celebrate the 9:30 a.m. Mass at Saint Raphael the Archangel Church in Raleigh.
Read Bishop Burbidge's homily
We have all experienced unexpected challenges in daily life. Recently, and in somewhat of a hurry, I went to pull out of my garage. However, the garage door got stuck. It would go up only a little bit. When I pressed the button it would go down and then back up a short distance. I could not get out! I was a captive in my own garage!
Fortunately, the repair person was able to arrive shortly thereafter. He took one look and said----I know the problem. He pointed to the sensor and said the light is off----that signals the problem. He replaced it. The light came on. He said, “Now try it.” Sure enough the garage door fully opened; I was no longer captive and now free to go!
We began our Easter Vigil in darkness symbolizing the darkness of our world; our sinfulness and even our lives. Then, we blessed the fire and lit the paschal candle; symbolizing the truth that unites us on this Easter night----by His own suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has dispelled the power of the darkness. The tomb is open; the Light is shining. We are no longer held captive to sin and we, who are so often “stuck” in our old way of living, are now free in Christ Jesus, in whom we know and celebrate the newness of life now and forever.
The power of the Lord our God to make all things new has been beautifully proclaimed in our Readings tonight: The Old Testament revealed God transforming chaos to order and delivering His people from captivity to freedom. The New Testament proclaims Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise and His victory over sin, suffering and even death itself.
Out of great love for us, God wants us to know order and serenity in our lives; true freedom and genuine peace; and to have the confidence and conviction that nothing of this world can defeat us, not even death. That is why He invites us “to live as children of the Light.” We do so when we consistently practice our faith; find our guidance in His Word and our strength in the Sacraments; and when we demonstrate in loving service our love for God and one another.
It is such witness that, no doubt, inspired those who will be initiated and received into full communion with the Church tonight. We congratulate them and their sponsors and families, and we thank them for the inspiration they are to all of us, who will soon renew our baptismal promises, pledging anew to live more deeply the faith we profess.
The Light is shining----for it is true: Jesus Christ is Risen today! In Him we find our freedom, our peace and the newness of life both now and forever. Amen.