Reflections for the Great Vigil of Easter

This holy night is radiant with our good news. Out of the darkness, now this light.

I love the way the light dawns in the Great Vigil of Easter: from nothing—absolute nothing, the utter darkness of the grave—a new fire.

This is the truth about this day; this is what we celebrate and proclaim in Holy Week and at Easter.

We have been taken down to nothing: the blackness of the grave. That is where we find ourselves in the aftermath of the cross. On that cross our ‘No’ writ large, ‘no’ to God’s grace, ‘no’ to God’s healing, so many ways of turning away from our God, from our good, from our life. So many ways of dying to the light, and all of them come to a head on Good Friday, in Christ dying, on the cross.

There is our light and our life—if we only knew it—the immeasurable love and life of God nailed by our own hands to the cross. And there was darkness over the whole earth…. All things on Good Friday reach their nadir, their absolute zero. The good world God has made disintegrates into darkness again.

In this darkness we come here tonight as the women came while it was still dark to the tomb. We come in the utter emptiness that is the world without God.

And here on this holy night, out of the darkness of the death at our hands of the Son of God—suddenly a new fire, the light of Christ.

When we light that new fire, when the Paschal candle burns, down the dark aisle of the church, we announce the world’s new birth.

It starts as a promise, a few candles in a great darkness, the words of all the prophets from the birth of the world to Zephaniah, telling in the darkness God’s faithfulness and God’s power, the promise through years of the world’s wandering again and again into the valley of the shadow of death, the promise again and again of life.

From God’s first word in creation—let there be light!—through the Red Sea, into the place of dry bones and beyond it to Zephaniah’s hope, the promise is heard. God is for us. Even in our darkness God is for us. Who then will be against us?

The promise sounds in the scriptures down through the ages and then it sounds in Jesus the Christ.

It sounds in his birth and in his life, his word of mercy and truth; his hands that touch and heal; his feet that walk the world to proclaim the time of God’s redemption. The promise sounds in Christ’s life and it sounds finally in his death.

Here, it turns out, here beyond all expectation in the darkness of the tomb, God is with us finally, here in this last darkness, to save.

Out of the darkness the new light springs.

Alleluia! Christ is risen. And the darkness forever is changed. No longer the end; no longer the place only of tears; even the tomb by the power of God, by His unfathomable love, the place now of life.

And the light shines in the darkness—

Word of God here with us

Word of God spoken in the beginning now spoken again: let there be light. Kaine ktisis, Paul says, new creation.

And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

So we ring our bells and sing, this night, sing for the coming of the light.

Alleluia, Christ is risen.

Here in our midst God’s promise, our true light.




Taize cross and candle, courtesy of

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