Last night I attended the beautiful Easter Vigil in my parish. There were so many wonderful elements: the lighting of the fire and procession from the fire into the church…the glow of the candles in the hands of the congregation…the Exsultet, sung so beautifully by our pastor and our director of music and liturgy…the readings telling the story of our salvation history…the renewal of the baptism promises and the sprinkling with baptismal water…a powerful and compelling sermon that I will be reflecting on for days…and, of course, the Eucharist.
As we heard in the Gospel reading from Mark, “you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised, he is not here.” It was an evening full of the presence of the risen Christ.
One of the incredibly powerful moments for me every year in the Vigil is the renewal of our baptism promises. Most of us were baptized as infants and so those promises were first made on our behalf by someone else. But each year, we are invited to renew those promises in our own name, to reaffirm who we are in relation to our God.
Michael Himes, in a small book I often recommend to people, The Mystery of Faith, expresses beautifully the meaning of the baptism promises:
What is implied, says Himes, when we are asked whether we believe in God the Father, the maker of heaven and earth is: “do you believe that there is one who made you, someone who gives your life its purpose and meaning?… It is a question of whether or not you accept that your life has purpose but that you are not the one who assigns the purpose. The question asks whether you can live in a world that is not your world to do with as you choose.”
When we are asked whether we believe in God the son who suffered, died and was raised, the question is whether we believe what we are told in hymn the second chapter of Philippians about Jesus emptying himself and becoming human, that is, “[c]an you believe that what you are, a creature, is so powerful, so important, so wonderful that God has chosen to be a creature along with you?
Finally, when we are asked whether we believe in the Holy Spirit and one holy Catholic church, we are asked whether we believe “that the Spirit of God is present in the world, not first and foremost in you or in me, but first and foremost in us? That is to ask, do you believe the the Spirit dwells primarily not in individuals but rather in community?” (And Fr. Dale’s homily spoke eloquently about the importance of church to our faith.)
These are the things to which we say “I do believe.” And, in so doing, we acknowledge our relationship to God, the risen Christ and each other.
Easter Blessings to all.