Easter Vigil

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

Easter Vigil 2018

St. Mary’s Cathedral


Tonight, we have spent some time listening to God’s Word, which spoke to us about how God has created and recreated our human family.  From Genesis through Exodus and by way of the prophets, we hear of God’s action on our behalf.  All of this prepares us for the great event that we celebrate tonight – the rising of Jesus from the dead.  When we are confronted with such a great mystery, we go beyond words to express what we believe and turn to symbols. The two images that dominate tonight’s liturgy are fire and water.


In the lighting of the Easter candle, we have a powerful reminder that the life of Jesus, which people thought had been snuffed out, lives in a new and glorious way.  And when we lit our tapers from that Easter candle, we saw how the darkness of the church was transformed by the light and warmth which was passed on from that Paschal Candle, the symbol of the Risen Christ.  However, as we read the various gospel accounts of the first Easter morning, we see that, despite the fact that Jesus had told his disciples that he would die and rise again, they were not a very hopeful lot. And that was quite understandable, because, for the Jews of Jesus’s day, what happened was not really on their radar.  Some of the Jews saw death as the end – returning to dust; among others, there was a belief in Sheol – a shadowy underworld of the dead, a sad kind of toned down version of life; and still others spoke of a resurrection of the Just – but at the end of time.  What also made it difficult is that no one observed the resurrection; all that existed were signs: the empty tomb, the linen cloths.  Many other reasons could be given for the absence of Jesus’s body.


So we see in our gospel account from St. Mark that the two Marys come in grief to the last resting place of the one they loved, and are astonished to hear the news that He is risen, which they are to communicate to his disciples.  It is only with considerable effort that Jesus’s followers come to see the truth.  Jesus’s life has not ended in failure and defeat.  God the Father has not abandoned him, but has brought him through death to new life, and not just a restored human life like Jesus had given back to Lazarus, but, rather, a new glorified existence which embraces his humanity.   But there is even more – because the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, had taken on human flesh through the incarnation, we, whose humanity he shares, have the possibility of entering into that glorified and eternal life which Jesus, as Risen Lord, has with the Father and the Spirit.


We will see in the gospel readings of the Easter season that it took the appearances of the Risen Lord to his disciples and the gift of the Spirit which Jesus breathed on them to bring them to the realization of this great mystery of Jesus’s risen life.  This perception would move them from being fearful, timid followers to being bold and zealous witnesses of the Good News.



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.