Light Shines Out into the Darkness
Darkness! Then the light of a single candle shines into the church and all the people gathered for the Easter Vigil can see it. The light shines out into the darkness and the darkness is powerless against it. The rays of light spread outward to fill the space. If given enough space those light rays would travel vast distances as we can see from starlight that travels billions of light-years to our eyes. Light differs from gravity which pulls into itself. Light, in contrast, is compelled to go out from itself. While adding more light will eventually dispel all darkness, no amount of darkness can dispel even a small light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
As the Easter Vigil continues, the one candle lights another candle, and another, until the whole church is filled with the flames. The light spreads, it grows, and it fills the space. Finally, the Paschal candle is placed in its stand. At my church this year, artwork was hung behind the Paschal candle as shown in the image. This artwork grabbed my attention and reminded me how the light goes out from the candle. I looked at my own candle in my hand and noticed the glow radiating from it. The idea of going out then characterized my reflections for the remainder of the Vigil.
I found the act of going out from a source applied to many of the beautiful experiences at the Vigil. The light goes out from the candle. The smoke goes out from the incense. The water goes out from the baptismal font as it is used to bless the assembly. The bread and wine go out from the altar into the people. The sound of ringing goes out from the bells to fill the church.
At my particular liturgy, I was also impressed by the excitement and enthusiasm with which the lectors proclaimed the readings and the cantors sang the Psalms. The Word of God went out of their mouths and into the ears of the listeners. Furthermore, the words did not just come out; they seemed to burst out of people who were so excited by God's action in Salvation History that they could not help but shout it out.
God is love! True love cannot turn in on itself like gravity. It is compelled to go outward like rays of light. The Scriptures proclaimed at the Easter Vigil begin with creation. God's love could not be contained, and he spoke out worlds into being and he breathed out life into men and women. When Christ rose from the dead, he did not stay in the tomb. The force of the resurrection rolled out the stone from the entrance and Christ went out from the tomb leaving it empty. When the women found the empty tomb later Easter morning, the angel did not tell them to stay. The angel told them to go out from the tomb and tell the others what they had seen and heard.
Goodness always tends to spread.
Just as light is compelled to radiate outward from its source, the Gospel radiates outwards from believers. It was no surprise that the lectors and cantors proclaimed the Good News with such enthusiasm. When you have a good story - a story so good it has changed your entire life - you can't help but share it. Good news like that cannot be contained! It must be shouted out!
While this going out was especially prominent in my Easter Vigil experience this year, it characterizes every liturgy. Every mass concludes with the instructions to "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord," or "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life." The conclusion of the mass recognizes that what happened during that liturgy cannot be contained within that church. It must go out.
Earlier in the week, I was moved by the procession with the Eucharist at the end of the Holy Thursday mass. At my church we processed from the sanctuary through the hallways to the banquet center where Eucharistic adoration would occur. As we processed we sang Praise We Christ's Immortal Body together. We chanted a capella with choir members ringing hand bells at various locations throughout the procession. I was moved by the unison with which the people still in the sanctuary, the people in the hallways, and the people in the banquet center sang the song. It struck me as a good model for what should be occurring at the end of every mass. As we go out from the church into our homes, we should carry the song of that liturgy with us. There is a unison between those in the church and those at home in their domestic churches who have shared a common experience of the liturgy.
The daily life of our families in our domestic churches should be a continuation of the liturgical life of our church. The Good News proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word goes out from the church to continue to be proclaimed in our domestic churches. The Sacrament shared in the Liturgy of the Eucharist goes out from the church to continue to be experienced in our domestic churches.
The family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates.
A few candles were lit from the Paschal candle as it was brought into the church, but those candles lit other candles which in turn lit more candles until the church was bright with the blaze. The light did not only radiate from a single point. Rather the flame went out into dozens of flames and light radiated out from each of these points. Furthermore, those flames went out into hundreds of others flames which each became a new point from which light radiated.
The Gospel similarly goes out from the parish church into each of our domestic churches. Then each of our domestic churches becomes a new point from which the Gospel radiates. Furthermore, each of the people who comes into our domestic churches carries the Gospel with them as they go out from our domestic churches, and each of them becomes another point from which the Gospel radiates.
The octave of Easter had come to an end, but the season of Easter is still just beginning. May our reflections on the Paschal Mystery lead us to radiate the Gospel from our domestic churches more brightly than ever. When we arrive at Pentecost, let us recognize that just as the disciples went out from the upper room to announce the Gospel of the Lord, we have gone out from our churches, through our domestic churches, and out into our schools, work places, and neighborhoods glorifying the Lord by our lives!