Easter Vigil, March 26, 2016

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien
Easter Vigil 2016
St. Mary’s Cathedral
March 26, 2016

Our liturgy is so rich this evening that it is hard to know where to begin, but perhaps the gospel we have just heard is the right place. We see that three women, very early on the first day of the week, go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. These women had accompanied Jesus for some time; they were very attached to him and had remained loyal to him through his unjust condemnation, his sorrowful way of the cross, his humiliation and death, and the triumph of his adversaries. In all of this, they had remained faithful. And so they now go to the tomb to pay their last respects. They had been wondering how they would get the stone rolled back at the entrance to the tomb, but, when they get there it has been rolled back; instead of finding the body of Jesus, they encounter two men in dazzling clothes. They tell the women that Jesus, who was crucified, is not here; He has been raised. The women do not know how to react — nor do the apostles when they convey this news to them.

For the women, death was something normal. They could handle the traditions to be carried out, such as anointing the body of the deceased, but this was something entirely different and very difficult to fathom. If Jesus was not in the tomb, and if what the two men said was true, then God had intervened in an inexplicable way. They had been focussed on Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus whom they thought they knew well. Now they do not know what to make of things. A whole new world is opening up before them, and they do not know how to handle it. Instead of finding a peaceful resting place, they find a place of terror and upheaval. Only gradually would Jesus’s friends and disciples begin to see the meaning of the resurrection — how God raised Jesus from the dead so that death in its many forms would not have the last word.

Today, many centuries later, as we reflect on what the scriptures have passed down to us, we proclaim the Church’s conviction that, “By his death, Christ has liberated us from sin; and, by his resurrection, he opens for us a new way of life that reinstates us in God’s grace, giving us a share in the life of the only Son and making possible our own resurrection.” (CCC 654)

In the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil, we give expression to this belief through gestures and words. The new fire struck from flint, and the Paschal Candle, the symbol of the Risen Christ, express the conviction that Christ is our light in the darkness of this world. And when we lit our tapers from that one source of light and the flame spread throughout our gathered community, we were reminded that we are “children of the light” called to bring the love and enlightenment of the Risen Christ to those around us.

The readings which we heard from the Old Testament show how the Resurrection of Jesus and our gift of new life are the culmination of many acts of God’s goodness toward us: God created us, made a covenant with Moses, and now this plan is fulfilled as we are recreated in the image of His son and made sharers in the divine life.

As we heard in the Letter to the Romans, entry into this new life in Christ is through baptism, where we follow the pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection as we “die to sin and rise to new life”. In a few moments, one among us, Marisela, will receive the sacrament of baptism, and we will have the opportunity to reflect on what it means to say “I am baptized”. Then our catechumen, Marisela, along with others, will be confirmed in the Spirit, strengthened to live that new life won for us by the death and resurrection of Christ.

To sum up what I wanted to convey tonight, Easter is not only concerned with recalling the resurrection of Jesus or its impact on the lives of the first disciples. It is also about the meaning of this event for our own lives. As Jesus’s disciples changed, so, too, we should be changing, seeing more clearly. The sign that we are sharing in the risen life of Jesus is when our lives and actions undergo constant development.

Each year, at Easter, after we have prepared for this feast through the observance of Lent, we are invited to renew our Baptismal Promises, which commit us to die to sin and to live for God in Jesus Christ. Hopefully, each year we come to see more clearly that this involves committing ourselves to struggle against our own selfishness and to respond to the needs of those who suffer from poverty and injustice.

During this Holy Year of Mercy, we are invited to carry this out in a special way by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, as a sign of our commitment to carry forward the work of building up the Kingdom of justice, peace, truth, and love. It is only with faith in the Risen Lord’s presence among us, and with the guidance and help of His Spirit, that we will be sustained in this work of carrying on the Saviour’s mission.

On behalf of all who serve you here at the Cathedral: Father Shawn Hughes, the rector, Father Stephane Pouliot, associate, Deacon Blaine Barclay, and in my own name, I wish all of you a Joyous and Blessed Easter.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.