LIGHT SHINES IN THE RISEN CHRIST
Pope John Paul II
Easter Vigil Homily 6 April 1996
1. Lumen Christi!
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:5). This is what the Prologue of John's Gospel proclaims, effectively summarizing the drama of the rejection of Christ from the moment of his coming into the World. But on this night, the night of Easteraccording to the Scriptures and beyond any human expectationthe opposite takes place: the light overcomes the darkness.
This is the first symbolic act of the solemn Easter vigil: the deacon carries the candle, symbol of Christ the light of the world, into the Basilica immersed in darkness. From the "new fire" of this candle the flames of other candles are lit, and from these, little by little, the candles of all the faithful, until the church is filled with light.
Then the deacon sings the Easter Proclamation, which is the hymn to Christ our Light. During the night, praise is sung to the Redeemer, who from the darkness has led us into God's marvellous light (cf. 1 Pet 2:9).
2. "O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem! O happy fault, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!" (Easter Proclamation).
So great are our joy and wonder at the salvation which we have been given that the fault itself seems worthy of being blessed!
After all, what is the darkness, if not the symbol of sin and death?
And what is the light, if not the symbol of the life which conquers death?
The night of Easter, this "blessed night" (beata nox), is the witness of this victory.
"The three Marys went, carrying costly ointments to anoint Christ's body and to give him praise and glory. On the way they said to one another: The stone there is so large who will remove it for us?" (from an ancient Polish Easter song).
The women, the first to reach the tomb, saw that the stone of the tomb had been rolled away. And an angel appeared to them: "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen" (Mt 28:5-6).
At Easter, symbols give way to reality: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:5): Life himself was killed, nailed to a Cross. But "in him was life and the life was the light of men" (Jn 1:4). And now in the Risen Christ that light finally shines. Lumen Christi. It was necessary that there should be "darkness over all the land" (Mt 27:45), so that the Light could shine in all its splendour. Life had to die, so that he could give life to all things.
3. During the Easter Vigil, the Church addresses the catechumens preparing to receive Baptism. She speaks to them using the words of the Apostle Paul: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.... If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:3-4,8,11).
These words resound in a particular way for you, dear brothers and sisters, who in a little while will be baptized and signed with the holy Chrism. For the first time you will approach the Eucharistic Table. My greeting goes to you with special affection!
In welcoming you, I wish to greet also the local Churches and the countries from which you come: South Korea France, Japan, Italy, the People's Republic of China, the United States of America and Viet Nam.
The light of Christ is for all peoples, and you, in this celebration, represent in a certain way the response of the nations of the whole world to the new evangelization.
In the fact that of the 10 of you seven come from Asia we can see a sign of Christ's and the Church's great desire to meet the peoples and cultures of that immense continent, so rich in history and noble traditions.
Let no one be afraid of the light of Christ! His Gospel is the light which does not bring death but which develops and brings to full maturity whatever is true, good and beautiful in every human culture. The Gospel of Christ is meant for man, for the life, peace and freedom of every individual and of all people. May you yourselves, dear catechumens, be witnesses of this, enlivened by the Holy Spirit who in a little while will be poured abundantly into your hearts.
4. Baptism means "immersion". being baptized means being "immersed" in the mystery of God's love which gushes forth from the pierced heart of the Crucified One.
In the liturgical year, the great Easter Vigil is the ideal moment for Baptism. During the Vigil, the symbol of light is linked to that of water and reminds us that we are all born again of water and the Holy Spirit, in order to share in the new life revealed by Christ's Resurrection.
"In him is life, and the life is the light of men" (cf. Jn 1:4).
O vere beata nox!
Night truly blessed which brings Christ's light to all people!
Night of limitless splendour shed the light of hope and peace on every corner of the earth!
Weekly Edition in English
10 April 1996.
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