Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Light of Christ (For The Great Vigil of Easter)

Tonight, after a day without Internet, without phone (I turned it off for the day to focus on the other things, the things that take a deeper concentration) - we gathered to shiver in the damp twilight. It was cloudy, the air heavy with the smell of water, and I stood next to my brothers as we waited. I could not see the fire lit, could not smell the sputtering smoke. 

And then I caught the first beautiful glimpse - flickering bright against the patchy darkness - we lit the Christ candle, the Paschal candle. And we followed it into the church, and the priest booms out in his loud voice to the world, "The light of Christ." And we repeat, straining forward, "Thanks be to God." 

What is it I am thankful for in the night before Easter? 

And the cantor stands there, his voice bearing to us the message of holiness. I listen close for the first time, my own voice somehow aching to sing with him: 

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

I am thankful for the light that keeps burning even in the darkest hour, the Morning Star who burns still, the depth of the night, when it seems that all hope has been lost.  

It begins to become clear as we hear the baptismal vows and the mystery is whispered loud and glorious in the darkness. You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own forever. 

And I felt the tears come creeping into my eyes at that moment, because I realize that this is the thankfulness of waiting. I am marked and sealed. That water has been prayed and poured over my child-self, in a moment of bright mystery, and I do not understand but I breathe it. My feet quiver in their shoes. The night before Easter, I am thankful for the water of Baptism. The night before Easter, I am thankful for the light of Christ from that Paschal candle, lit all those many years ago, relit and relit at each moment of my growing up. The light of Christ. Thanks be to God. 

The lights burst forth at this moment in the service, and I can't seem to stop crying, because I see now the history of God's light that burns in the darkest hours and how He promised us light always. The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light. I see it burning near the altar, I see it burning in the joyful organ and the choir of voices and the peal of the bells. And trembling in the holy night, I see the Paschal candle lit in my own heart, marked and sealed as Christ's own forever. 

The light of Christ. Thanks be to God. 

Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death
of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his
resurrection and look for him to come again in glory; who
lives and reigns now and forever. Amen.

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