Saturday, April 7, 2012

Homily for Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil)


John 20:1-18

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

When all was still and it was midnight, Your Almighty Word, O Lord, descended from the royal throne. We sang those words from the Apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon on Christmas Eve in joyous contemplation of the glorious condescension of the Son of God to be conceived and born as a helpless infant in meekness, lowliness, and humility. For, it was in the hopeless and futile midnight of man’s attempt to justify himself by works according to the Law, when men must sleep in death, the wage for their sin, unable by reason or strength or volition to make any movement towards God whatsoever – it was in that hopeless and futile midnight stillness that God has acted, that God has chosen, that God has willed, and that God has done what was necessary to redeem and to justify and to raise you, O man, from death and hell, to walk and to move and to live and to breathe in Him and through Him forever unto eternal ages through the free and perfect gift of His Word, His Son, made flesh, Jesus Christ.

So very much like that night in December is this night in April! When you left this place Friday evening, you left in darkness, in sadness, and in hopelessness of salvation. O sorrow dread! Our God is dead! You sang in darkness as the Son of God hanged dead upon the cross. You know that He died in your place. You know that it was your sins that pierced His flesh like biting nails and thorns, that affixed Him to the tree of death, until He gave up His breath. You remember that the death of God was punctuated by darkness, an earthquake, and by the tearing of the temple curtain. These testified that no amount of prayers and sacrifices in the temple could remove the wage of death, but only God, that even the heavens and the earth were sustained from chaos and death by the creative Word of God alone. Truly, if Friday were the end of your story, then you would be the most pitiable of all people.

Dearly beloved, people of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, you are gathered here tonight in this semi-darkness, in vigil and in prayer, because Friday was not the end of your story. In many ways, it is a new beginning. All is still, as if it were midnight, and you remember that on this night your Lord’s lifeless body laid still in a borrowed tomb. But, Jesus’ dead body in the tomb is your dead body in the tomb, for Jesus is Adam, Jesus is Jacob, and Jesus is Israel. Jesus is Man, and He received in Himself the wages of your sin and the sins of all men. He bore the stripes and suffering you deserved. He was pierced by thorns, nails, and spears, and His flesh was torn by leather, bone, and stone for you. He was forsaken by His Father that you may never know that hellish loneliness and torment. And, He died and tasted the fullness of death, received its potent sting, that you may experience death with its teeth knocked out, as sleep from which you will awake.

For the Father planted Him deep in the earth from whence Man came, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But, as with a seed of grain, out of His death springs new life! God has raised Him from the dead! He burst the strong bands of death and hell; no longer can they hold Him. Veils and shrouds, boulders, doors; no longer can they hinder Him.

Why is this night unlike other nights? It is the night in which your Savior passed over from death to life. Thus, Jesus is not merely your Passover Lamb, but Jesus is your Passover; because the Angel of Death took Him in death, death passes over you. Jesus’ Sabbath rest in the tomb has fulfilled the Sabbath for you. He leads you safely through the drowning sea of baptism, through death, into life as you have been baptized into His death and resurrection.

This is the night of the First Day, when light was spoken into darkness. Tonight Christ’s primordial light breaks out from the darkness of death and fills the world. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, the Light no darkness can overcome. Your Lord, your hope, is arisen; to Galilee He goes before you. He says to you, O Woman, O Man, why are you weeping? Why do you seek the living amongst the dead? Out of the darkness of death, the stillness of midnight, the hopelessness of man’s death, life has arisen, light has dawned. Jesus Christ is arisen from the dead! Alleluia!

In the + Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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