A Homily for the Great Vigil of Easter*
Rejoice! Sisters and brothers, again I say Rejoice! and greet the Lord with shouts of acclamation!
Rejoice! For this is the night!
Rejoice! For Christ our Lord is victorious! He has conquered the grave, triumphed over Hell, and vanquished Death!
Rejoice! For tonight we celebrate the turning point of history!
The Lord our God has been at work in our world since its very Creation, forming the world from nothing and shaping humanity out of the dust.
The Lord set our first parents in the Garden, and declared it very good.
Though we sinned against our Maker, God called out a holy people, making a covenant to bless the world through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord our God sent Moses, Miriam, and Aaron to deliver the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, parting the waters of the Red Sea. And even though the people rebelled and wandered through the wilderness for forty years, the Lord sent Joshua usher them into the Land of Promise, parting the waters of the Jordan.
Through the chaos of history, as empires came and went, as humanity continued to fall short the Lord remained steadfast.
Through Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, and Elisha, through David and Solomon, the Lord upheld the covenant with Israel and the House of Judah.
God has spoken through the prophets, through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel to the people assuring them of deliverance.
Out of Exile, the Lord redeemed the people, delivering Daniel and Esther.
And now, at the end of the age, the Father has given to us a Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, who unites us into this story being told from the foundation of the world and who accompanies us through this lonely exile.
He was born into the shadow of oppression and called to those on the margins.
He was baptized by John in the River Jordan.
He proclaimed the Lord’s favor to the despised and rejected.
He healed the sick and cleansed the leper.
He dined with sinners and outcasts.
He raised the dead.
He proclaimed the Kingdom of God, and he sent out the disciples to preach repentance.
He was met with scorn and hatred, and he knew the bitterness of rejection. He was tried and executed. He knew the fullness of humanity by joining us in death.
The sky turned dark and the Earth shook as all the cosmos cried out in pain.
Christ has taken on our dust-made, perishable form and by being un-made on the Cross ushers us into a new creation, to an imperishable life.
On this night we see the fullness of God’s divine providence: that Christ our Lord, the Living one, is no longer among the dead, for he is risen and dies nor more.
In rising again, Christ has set us free, showing us that Death and the grave hold us but for a short time.
On this night of nights, we rejoice because we know that we will rise again. We see that God has been at work in the world since creation, calling us out as a holy people, redeeming us from captivity and delivering us into salvation, setting us free from slavery to Sin and Death.
And now that redemption, that deliverance, that salvation, that freedom, shines forth in its fullest, truest, most beautiful form.
We have wandered in the Lenten Wilderness these forty days, and tonight, oh glorious night! the Lord brings us into the fullness of the covenant through the waters of Baptism.
Tonight, this sacred night, we are brought out of Exile.
Tonight, this blessed evening, all of Creation is redeemed.
On this holy night, a light shines out in the darkness, and the light pierces the shadow – as far as the curse is found.
On this most sacred evening, the gates of Hell are burst open and the chains of Death are shattered as our Savior, the Son of God, who sacrificed himself, emptying himself into human form and condescending to join us in our suffering, conquers the grave, and rises victorious.
Christ lives, and because he lives,
BECAUSE HE LIVES,
we know that we too shall live.
We shall live indeed, and because we shall live, we are set free – free from Sin, free from Fear, free from Death.
We are free to proclaim the good and gracious news of our Lord’s Resurrection.
We, like Mary Magdalene and the women at the Tomb, are sent as messengers of our Savior’s triumph.
We, like Simon Peter, are beckoned to witness the empty tomb and ponder the mystery of the Resurrection.
We, the witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection, are called to celebrate the first-born from among the Dead and live into the new Creation.
So come sisters and brothers!
Come sinners and saints!
Come all who are weary!
Come all who are heavy-burdened!
Come all who mourn!
Come all who are poor!
Come, all who doubt! Come and see!
Come, splash in the baptismal waters!
Come! Find forgiveness and grace!
Come! Be filled with the Spirit!
Come! Be united into the Body of Christ!
Come! Eat of the Paschal Feast!
Come! Taste! And see that the Lord is good!
Come! Commune with the Body of Christ!
Come! Receive the Risen Lord!
Come! And be set free!
Be set free from the sting of Death!
Be set free from the powers of Sin!
Be set free from fear and loathing!
Be set free to tell the world that Christ is risen!
Be set free to sing the praises of God’s great love!
Be set free for the joyous work of the Gospel!
Be set free to proclaim freedom to the captives!
Be set free to live as God created you!
Be set free to live in the Kingdom of God!
Be set free to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength!
Be set free to love your neighbor as yourself!
Be set free to love your enemies and bless those who persecute you!
Be set free to love one another as Christ has loved us!
Come! Be set free because Christ is risen!
Come! Be set free because the power of Sin and Death have been overturned!
Come! Be set free because we shall be raised with Christ!
Amen. Amen. Amen.
*Typically, I let St. John Chrysostom’s Easter homily carry the weight of the Vigil in a way that only the Golden-Tongued Archbishop can. However, during my internship, I was tasked with preaching the Vigil in my own words.