Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
These words of the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet), sung at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, take an even greater significance in 2020 as we pray for a swift end to the Coronavirus pandemic and that God’s grace and the light of Christ will flood every part of the Earth.
Saint Augustine fittingly described the Easter Vigil as the “Mother of All Vigils” and Easter Sunday as the “greatest of all Sundays.” Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
While this year’s Easter Vigil will not begin with the traditional Easter fire, the Paschal Candle will still burn brightly. The Paschal Candle represents Christ and is one of the central symbols of this liturgy. It is lit near the ambo, where the readings are proclaimed, for the fifty days of the Easter Season.
Another key symbol of the Easter liturgy is water. Water symbolizes death and life. In Baptism, we die to our old way of life and rise to new life as a child of God. This Easter water is used for the Sacrament of Baptism, is sprinkled on the faithful throughout the Season, and is available as a sacramental to be used in one’s home. During this time of pandemic, Easter water will be distributed after the threat of the virus has subsided.
For forty days of Lent, the Church refrains from singing the Alleluia. In one of the most striking moments of the Vigil, prior to the Gospel, “Alleluia” is intoned three times. The Alleluia is the third great symbol of the Easter liturgy. Different than light and water, Alleluia comes from our voices. Our joy in the promise of New Life comes from within ourselves and we ring out Alleluia, (in Hebrew ‘praise the Lord’).
Unique to this Solemnity and Christmas, the celebration of Easter Sunday continues for eight days during its Octave. Each day of the Octave is celebrated as a “mini-Easter” reminding us of the truth that “Christ is alive!”
For most of the world, April 12, 2020 will come and go, and in many ways it will still feel like Lent: confined to our homes, away from our Churches, sickness and death in our nation and world, and economic confusion for our families.
Yet, we as Catholics, are called to take great hope in this Solemnity, that light triumphs over darkness, that water brings new life, and that we are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!
This is the conclusion of a series of articles this week by Father Keith A. Mathur, director, Office for Divine Worship, about the special liturgies of Holy Week.