On Easter Sunday, the most important day of the year for Catholics, we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection and a new life for us. Easter is also usually associated with spring and the joys of new life that it brings — flowers and bunnies included. Many of us flock to sunrise services and Masses on Easter morning like Mary Magdalene and the other women who hurried early in the morning to Jesus’s tomb.
As light fills the sky and surrounds us, we experience the dawning of a new day, which reminds us of our new life as an Easter People. In his letter to the Romans (Romans 6) read at the Vigil Mass, Paul tells us that that we are an Easter people because in Baptism we were baptized into Jesus’s death. Because we died with Christ, we also share in the new life of salvation.
The scripture readings for the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday and the Easter Sunday Masses are all rich in meaning, taking us from creation to the “new creation” that is Easter. In the darkness of our current troubled times, I prefer to focus on the theme of light, rather than any particular reading or readings. The light turns night into day; the darkness of sin turns into the light of salvation; death becomes life — Easter, a new day, a new life!
The Vigil Mass begins in a darkened Church with a series of Old Testament passages and psalms read solely by candlelight. The first reading from Genesis beautifully and poetically describes the creation of the world, and there we hear the words, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Following the eighth and last Old Testament reading at the Vigil Mass, light and music fill the Church just before the Epistle, Paul’s letter brings us to the New Testament. This transition reminds us of Jesus coming forth from the darkness of the tomb into the light of a new day.
Our 2020 Easter celebrations will undoubtedly be very different, tinged with sadness as our Churches remain closed for public worship, and quarantine and social distancing separate our friends and families. We are heartsick with the extent of sickness and death in our world. However, we can — and must — find solace in the messages of faith, hope, and joy in this weekend’s readings and in the knowledge and assurance of God’s love for us, His Easter People.
On that first Easter morning, we emerged with Jesus into the light of salvation, and — rain or shine this Easter — we will bask again in the light of the Resurrection. This is truly the light we need now!
Maureen Russell, an Associate of the Sisters of Charity since 2012, currently serves as Coordinator of Associates for the Congregation and as a member of its Sponsorship Advisory Council. Prior to that, she worked for many years in administrative positions at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
Photo of sunrise in Guatemala by Luciano Laynez Pérez, SC Asociate