FRIAR JOHNPAUL TAN shares why this gives us meaning as Church

An integral part of the Easter Vigil is the Christian initiation of baptism and renewal of baptismal vows.

Our Easter liturgies are about our own spiritual renewal and the renewal of the Church. We recall the words and actions of Jesus that give life to the world.

The Vigil Mass of Holy Saturday is the culmination of the Church’s liturgical calendar having come through the season of Lent and Holy Week. The Church recalls for herself this foundational moment in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, her Lord and Master. The Church calls this the Paschal Mystery which recalls the Paschal (Passover) sacrifice of Jesus as the unblemished Lamb of God. This is the most important reason of why we are Church, of why we even exist as a Church.

Hence, on this most solemn of nights, the Church recalls and renews herself in this sacred liturgy. On this evening, two constitutive events happen as an integral part of the Easter Vigil: the lighting of the Paschal candle at the Service of Light and the Christian initiation and renewal of baptismal vows.

These two powerful symbols play out in the liturgy and are amplified by its dominant feature; of light over darkness, life over death.

For Catholics, this yearly recalling and renewal of the foundational event of our faith further energises the Church and its members. It sustains our own life in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and offers us the possibility for the renewal of our faith.

At the Passover meal that Jesus had with His disciples, He left behind some important words and actions; principally the Eucharist, the washing of feet, of service that is tied to ministry.

Similarly, Saint Francis of Assisi before his death told his brothers, “Let us begin again, for until now we have done nothing.”

St Francis gave this rule to his brothers and wanted them to hold fast to it. Like many things, the initial inspiration can always be overtaken by jealousy, pride, ego and power struggles. So going back to basics was a good reminder to his brothers as he came to the end of his journey.

Easter, while promising new life, also offers everyone a new beginning. Perhaps we could all begin by going back to basics, especially in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Our Easter liturgies are about our own spiritual renewal and the renewal of the Church. We recall the words and actions of Jesus that give life to the world

In emphasising our familial relationship with Jesus, St Francis in his rule for the secular Franciscans wrote:

We are spouses when the faithful soul is united by the Holy Spirit with our Lord Jesus Christ. We are for him brothers and sisters when we do the will of Father who is in heaven (Mt 12:50). We are mothers when we bear him in our hearts and bodies (1 Co 6:20) with divine love and with pure and sincere consciences, and when we give birth to him through our holy actions which must shine in example to others (Mt 5:16).

Father JohnPaul Tan is a Franciscan Friar and the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Singapore.

This article was first published in The Catholic News on Sunday April 7, 2019.

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