Easter Vigil

Preached April 20, 2019; St. Peter Catholic Church, The Dalles, Oregon

The account of creation shows us a perfect world, coming forth from the word of God, the Creator. If we were to attend well to the meaning of the account we might be able to recognize that man, created in God’s image and likeness, appears in this world as a priest in the temple of God, made to give to him the worship of the seventh day. If the sixth day speaks of man as the image of God, the seventh day rest, blessed and sanctified by God, speaks of communion with God in worship.

The perfection of the original creation was destroyed by sin.

As a result, when people say that everything God creates is perfect they are deceived; if someone seeks to justify himself saying, “God made me this way”, not only is he deceived, but he blasphemes, blaming God for his sins.

The celebration of Easter speaks to us of salvation from sin and death and the beginning of a new creation, in Jesus Christ; he is the beginning of a new creation and the promise of its completion in the resurrection of the dead.

In the English language the meaning of Easter has become obscured because we have misnamed the celebration. Properly it is called “Passover”, the Christian Passover. The closest we come in the English language to making the connection is with the word “paschal” as in “paschal candle” or “paschal mystery”, because the word “paschal” comes directly from the Hebrew word that translates as “Passover.”

Easter is the Christian Passover and we need to understand the parallel between the Jewish Passover and the Christian Passover.

The Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. They had lost their sense of worth as a people; they were humiliated; they no longer knew who they were; they were deprived of worship and communion; life was a matter of mere survival. At best they had a memory of the promises God had once made to their fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; promises that now seemed impossible of fulfillment.

Yet, God heard their cry of affliction and sent them Moses to deliver them from the power of Pharaoh and lead them out of their slavery in Egypt. Moses led them across the Red Sea and brought them to Mt. Sinai, where they entered into a covenant with their Lord, a covenant of commandments and worship, a covenant that contained a sort of communion with God, who dwelt in their midst and was not ashamed to be called their God. Moses then guided the people for 40 years in the desert until they came to frontier of the Promised Land. After Moses’ death, Joshua led the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. There they renewed the covenant and celebrated the Passover.

The Jewish celebration of Passover commemorates this whole work of deliverance, as a sort of new creation, in which God takes a people for himself from the midst of a sinful world, represented by Egypt. The Jewish celebration commemorates the complete work from the deliverance from Egypt, to the covenant of commandment, worship, and communion, to the fulfillment of the promise achieved when the people enter the land of Israel.

What God did with the Jewish people more than three thousand years ago was a sort of living parable and prophecy of what he planned to do with the whole of mankind through the work of his Son, Jesus Christ.

God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, as a sort of new Moses. He is not just the new Moses, but he is also the true Passover Lamb. Through his death and resurrection he leads his people out of the slavery of sin and death, across the Red Sea of Baptism, into the new covenant in his Blood, a covenant of the new law, as I have loved you, so you must love one another, of the eucharistic sacrifice, and the true communion in his Body and Blood. Jesus then guides his people, the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, on the desert pilgrimage of this life, across the Jordan River of death, into the promised land of the Resurrection of the Body, where he has already gone before us.

During the 40 days of Lent we were reminded that during this life we are on the desert pilgrimage of God’s people, that we have not yet arrived at the promised resurrection; now as we enter the Easter season we give thanks for our deliverance from the Egypt of sin and death, we rejoice in the covenant of sacrifice and communion that we already enjoy, and we look forward in hope to the eternal Passover of the heavenly kingdom and the resurrection of the dead. Then the new creation will be complete and perfect. Then the former things will have passed away, there will be no more tears nor weeping and no more death, and we will rejoice in the new heavens and new earth. (cf. Rev 21:1-5)

“Christ our Passover has been sacrificed; therefore let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of purity and truth. Alleluia.”

 

 

 

 

Easter Vigil, 2019
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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.

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