Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Vigil

Genesis 1 & 2:1-2.
Exodus 14:24-15:1
Isaiah 4:1-6
Deuteronomy 31:22-30
Colossians 3:1-7
John 20:1-10

This is the night.
Tonight we stand on the brink.

We stand between Darkness and Light. “Darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
We stand between Water and Fire. “The Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud...and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.”
We stand between Death and Life. Yesterday, we were there as our Lord was crucified and buried; tomorrow he will rise again.
We stand between Font and Candle, which re-present and partake of these things: The Font re-presents the dark waters of creation from which our new birth comes; the Red Sea through which we pass to freedom as our slavery to Pharoah is drowned; the tomb of our Lord which we partake of in our Baptism. The Candle re-presents the first Light of creation; the pillar of Fire which draws us, like the ancient Hebrews, forward to the promised land; and the Light of Christ - hidden in the tomb, and for us hidden in the rock of flint- hidden but not quenched as it sparks anew to grow and spread.

We stand between time and eternity. “Tonight Heaven and Earth are joined,” as Mother Anne sang. Every year, as time wends on its way, we remember this night: But, this night we do not only remember deeds of past times, tonight we are inundated with symbols to stimulate us to the realization that all these times are Now. We remember in the mystical sense, as we do at each Eucharist: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Mystical remembrance does not look backward to a past, but *inward* to an ever-present reality. THIS is the night.

What we find on this brink is God. In the pull between the Spirit in the Darkness, and the Word in the Light we find God especially exemplified as Love. In Love the world was created, that Man and God might exist in Love toward one another. In Love were the children of Israel led to freedom, and a land flowing with milk and honey. Through the Lord of Love himself were all things created - including each of us! - and through him we are sustained.
The contrary forces of the world would deny us that understanding; would, through the “knowledge of Good and Evil” exile us from the “garden” of unity with God, ourselves and with each other; Satan would hold us in a living Death of feeling alone. In the Creation story, God made “Adam” in his own image and likeness. We’re used to seeing “Adam” portrayed as a human male, one male among many others since. But Adam may also be “mankind.” Original sin is not something we inherited from the misdeed of an ancestor, it is the reality in which Mankind finds itself. But Christ came, not to reverse that reality, but to transcend it. “O wonderful providence of Adam’s transgression, that by such a death sin might be done away!” Love himself, ever present in us since our creation, is still able to burst the rocky tomb, and break the gates our hells in sunder. As the Athenasian creed rehearses, Christ is One, “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God.” In Christ, manhood - Adam - each of us! is taken into God!

When we give the elements of the world to another, our own handle on them is diminished. The World operates on an economy of scarcity. But Heaven operates on an economy of abundance. Christ forshowed this in the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It is forshown in our candle tonight: every time the flame is divided, it is not diminished but rather increased! We participate in this reality every time we partake of the Eucharist: the body of Christ is divided as the bread is broken; but as it is slowly assimilated and transformed in each of us, his body is not in the least diminished, but spread! And so it is with Love. True love is not finite: Rather as one Loves the other, one’s own self is increased. The more we Love, the more the kingdom of heaven is realized. The world is not left behind, for Love requires the Other, and that painful division, that Good-and-Evil, and This-and-That which is found only in the World, in Time. But when we *Love*, time is infused with Eternity, and the Kingdom of Heaven is realized on Earth.

Let us then own this Great Mystery, that we might always be Risen with Christ. Let us Love one another that, as we prayed in our Collect, unto us may be opened the “gate of everlasting life.” Not a life that has no temporal end, but rather a life lived now in Eternity.

This is the night.