Words on the Word

Easter Vigil

The last thing we hear about Jesus on Good Friday is that his body is wrapped in a linen cloth with spices, then laid in a tomb. Anyone who has had care of a dead body knows how heavy it is. What used to be the organism of a known human being becomes deadweight. A corpse is at once recognisable and strange. The presence has gone. We grasp what departure means.

Jesus’s body is lifted down from the Cross, cleaned, enshrouded, and laid to rest. The legacy of this wonderful Man seems to be a scented weighty bundle on a shelf, a grain of sand in a wide, wide world.

During this night the perspective is inverted. The tomb of Christ, we are told, was not a causally located piece of mortuary real estate in a Jerusalem suburb. There is light emanating from the grave!

This light is an expression of the energy physical science recognises as the origin of all that exists. We recognise it as uncreated light. In this light, all heaviness is made light. Tradition refers to the area round Jesus’s Cross and grave as the centre of the earth. Symbolically speaking, this is true. The saving events that have taken place here, which we have witnessed during these most holy days, is the nucleus of our planet’s and our kind’s history. Only in the light of these events can history be truly understood.

The liturgy lets us see further still. It proclaims the Gospel of Easter on the basis of the Biblical account of creation. Jesus’s victory has a cosmic dimension. We shall only realise how wonderful it is when we recognise the Risen One as Lord of the world.

Julian of Norwich, born while Magnus VII Eriksson governed our country, late in the 14th century, once had a vision that lets us see the coherence of our Vigil reading. It was granted her after she had considered Jesus crowned with thorns, on his way to Calvary. She was given to understand that ‘He is our clothing that for love wrappeth us, claspeth us, and all encloseth us for tender love, that He may never leave us’. He is all-thing that is good. No evil can resist him.

Also in this He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall last for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.

Tonight the all-powerfulness of love is proved. Darkness cannot overcome the light. Our God, the God of light, loves all he has made, and desires that it should live.

Each of us is infinitely loved, called to fullness of life. The Good News of Easter is this: ‘Believe that you are loved! Live accordingly!’ Death is dead. Christ lives!

Let us then rejoice in him in time, and in eternity.


Icon by Lyuba Yatskiv.