Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020
On Holy Saturday evening, this Sunday’s Gospel came to my mind, almost to the point of displacing the brilliant message that The Crucified Jesus had broken free of the tomb. ALMOST! Almost, because there is no greater news than JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN! As St. Paul explains:
And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. (1 Cor 15:14)
Nothing can displace or overpower the Good News that Christ has OVERPOWERED…conquered, once and for all, sin and death. This News is the foundation of our faith and the reason for our hope…Christian hope!
So, like countless Christians, I was unnerved by the fact that, this year, I would not be part of the dramatic celebration of Jesus’s resurrection at the Easter Vigil. It would be necessary to simply view the powerful liturgy on television.
And then a friend, whose computer knowledge far outdistances mine, offered to host a ZOOM EASTER VIGIL WORD SERVICE.
(Even technically challenged people like myself know that Zoom is one of the internet services that enables a good number of people to see and communicate with one another during such things as online meetings, virtual school lessons, and social gatherings.)
Shortly before sunset on Holy Saturday evening, our host began to “usher,” one by one, the faithful into the virtual worship space. All who were participating were asked to gather in darkness, just as we would if we were in our parish churches. It was suggested that each have a candle at the ready, as well as a bowl of water.
When everyone was in place, our computer screens were divided into 12 squares, each filled with the shadowy figures of the worshippers sitting in their unlighted homes, waiting for The Light of Christ to break into our world.
We started with the blessing of the new fire. At the proper time, everyone lit the candle in front of them, and the computer screen broke into a blaze of glowing, orange light. Our little candles were images of the grand Paschal candle that was being enshrined in empty cathedrals around the world.
With that, we began the Liturgy of the Word. From all parts of our Diocese, dining room tables became ambos (Tables of The Word) as from each “square,” in turn, one of the seven Old Testament Readings, the Psalm, Epistle, and finally, The Easter Gospel was proclaimed. Although the lectors’ faces weren’t quite clear, their voices were identifiable.
Then we prayed the prayers of blessing over the 12 bowls of water in our homes, after which we renewed our Baptismal promises. All were then invited to refresh the graces we received on that day we were born again in The Spirit, by blessing ourselves with the water from our “home fonts.”
It was as we prayed The Lord’s Prayer and virtually shared Christ’s Peace that I linked John 14:1-12 with what we were about in our ZOOM EASTER VIGIL WORD SERVICE. Our computer screens, divided into 12 equal spaces that Holy Saturday night, for me anyway, was an image of God’s house in which there are many dwelling places.
While we retained our personal identities, the importance of who we were as individuals was displaced or overpowered by Who had called us together…and what we are about…professing the faith we share. Clearly, that evening, our primary identity was that of CHRISTIANS, waiting…keeping Vigil for Christ’s glorious return. Gathered around the Light of Christ, divided into 12 parts, we raised one voice in celebration of Jesus’s final victory over sin and death. Distanced from one another, there was nevertheless a powerful sense of unity and intimacy rooted in our common belief that CHRIST HAS DIED, CHRIST IS RISEN, AND CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN.
Admittedly, we all look forward to the day when we can gather SAFELY in our own churches to celebrate the fullness of Eucharist. And, hopefully, next Easter Vigil, we will stand around one grand Paschal candle, and bless ourselves from the same font of Living Water. Still, I will be ever grateful for the “Virtual Easter Vigil of 2020,” which left me a vivid image of what awaits those who have faith in God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We live in a time of extreme uncertainty. However…Do not let your hearts be troubled. Because you can always be certain of this: For the faithful…there is a dwelling place prepared just for you by The Risen One…in His Father’s House.