Easter Vigil

April 12, 2020 | Abiding in God's Heart

Both the Stanbrook and Jamberoo communities share the tradition of having our Easter Vigil in the early morning rather than on Saturday evening which in Britain is the norm for most parishes. (Although this year Stanbrook is having their Vigil on Saturday evening because of the virus.) It seems so wrong to sing Christ is Risen, Alleluia! and then go to bed.

We all love to celebrate this most holy night as Church. We all come together to hear the Easter Proclamation sung. To know Christ is our light. Then to listen to the readings taking us through Salvation history up to the renewal of our own Baptismal Promises. But this year is different to any other year for the whole Church for the whole world. We are celebrating our redemption in lockdown here, in the UK and throughout the world but Christ has still Risen! We are still the Easter people and Alleluia is still our song. God is not limited, and the blessings and graces of this Easter are not restricted. He is teaching us something very special this year and we must open our hearts and ears to see what his gift is to us this Easter Day. Let me share a few thoughts which have lit up my Easter celebration. Themes that have stayed with me through this Lent to the Easter Triduum.

I am like a small child at Christmas come the Easter Triduum. I love every moment of the liturgy, every reading, every hymn, every ceremony. I just drink it all in but if I really had to choose something that is just a little bit more special, it is always the Easter Gospel. This year it has been made unique because of circumstances and it is quite historical in its own way. We cannot have Fr Paul with us and nor is the extern section of the church full of guests sharing this most wonderful celebration. But what we do have is this community of Benedictine women celebrating this Holy Night. It is the early morning, not long after the dawn and we are travelling with Mary Magdala and the other Mary to the tomb where Jesus was placed on Good Friday. It is to these two women and to us, the women of the Benedictine Abbey, Jamberoo that the Easter message is proclaimed by the angel. Jesus is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Matthew 28:6

Let us put ourselves in the place of the two Marys’ as they approached the tomb. They had just been through three days of pain sorrow and now grief – their hearts troubled and full of fear for the future. Then what follows must have really terrified them, there was a violent earthquake and their world was turned upside down, but the Angel of the Lord appeared and says. Do not be afraid. How often in Scripture do we hear these same words uttered. God does not want us to be frightened. He is a God of mercy and compassion. The angel reveals to the women that the Lord had risen indeed. Maybe it is at this point they remember Jesus’ words to Martha at Bethany

I am the resurrection.
Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

The two Marys’ hearts are filled with joy. They meet Jesus and his first words again: Do not be afraid.

Today, our world is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. People are having to face so many fears; loneliness, separation, pain, suffering and sometimes death. These fears are very real, and I suspect, we all here have been facing them too. I know, I have. In this week’s Easter edition of The Tablet, there is an article by Mark Oakley on George Herbert’s poem, ‘Easter’ which puts into words exactly what the Lord has been teaching me over these past weeks. I quote the first part of the poem

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Mark Oakley points out in the article that Herbert has the deep conviction that God is his friend. (The Tablet 11 April 2020) Therefore, the risen Lord is truly my friend and he is your friend who holds me by my hand and your hand. Jesus reminds us, I am with you always to the end of time. Matthew 28:20.

One of the English Bishop’s describes what the world is facing at present as a long Good Friday. Well if it is a long Good Friday the Resurrection will come. It is how we prepare for it. As Benedictines, our witness can be the deepening of our relationship with the Risen Christ, in our prayer, serving Christ in each other, learning to wash the feet of my sister, speak the good word to one another. These are all ways we bring Christ not only into our lives but also the hearts of the world.

He has walked the dark road of death and he has conquered death. He is holding our hands and saying: Do not be afraid, for I, the Risen Christ am with you, I love you, trust me.


Andrea Savage OSB
12 April 2020