We begin in darkness and stillness, silent as the tomb. Then the sacred fire is lit, the paschal candle blessed, and the light of Christ received by the faithful with solemn songs of thanksgiving.
The Exsultet is sung. The Exsultet. Our Easter proclamation of glad tidings! We rejoice because we have been brought out of darkness! We rejoice because just as the Israelites before us were led out of slavery in Egypt, so we have been rescued from the slavery of sin! We rejoice because in Christ there is no more death or sorrow or mourning but the gift of eternal life has been purchased for us with his own blood!
This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
On this night, he is risen!
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Truly heaven and earth are wed on this night, when by the resurrection of Our Lord the bond of love between God and mankind which we had tarnished with sin is made new, and he from whom we had drawn away in disobedience, restores us to himself through the obedience of the Son to his Father.
The Word became flesh at the annunciation, Jesus was born into our world at Christmas, his wedding feast was celebrated at the Last Supper, and his marriage consummated in his death and resurrection. With his rising from the dead, the work of salvation has been fulfilled.
Then we hear God’s word proclaimed in scripture, starting with In the beginning… We hear of God’s love for us in every age, how he lays the foundations of the world with tender care, creates a covenant with his chosen people, ransoms them from slavery, promises them a savior, and finally sends his only begotten son, so that all who believe in him shall not die, but shall have eternal life.
This the most wondrous of all the mighty works of God, the redemption of the human race, the salvation of sinners, carefully planned and prepared through innumerable ages, is completed on this night. All the history of the world has led to this moment.
We receive catechumens into the Church through Baptism and Confirmation. They are reborn, and we renew our own baptismal promises, and all have been made a new creation in Christ, no longer bound by sin but free, free to love the Lord our God as we were always meant to do. We are baptized into his death, and therefore we share in his resurrection.
Then, finally, is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We sing prayers of praise and thanksgiving to our God, so great and mighty that he made himself small and humble, sharing in our meager human condition, so that he might lay down his life on our behalf. The Word became flesh, and then he gave his body to us.
Truly, heaven and earth are wed on this night! For we receive the body of Christ, the very flesh of our divine bridegroom, into our own mortal bodies, and the two become one. What God has brought together, let no man put asunder!
This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!