The Paschal Vigil: 

The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ


"I have opened the gates that were bolted.
I have shattered the bars of iron and the iron has become red hot;
it has melted at my presence;
and nothing more has been shut
because I am the gate for all beings.
I went to free the prisoners;
they belong to me.
And I abandon no one,"
says the Lord.
Odes of Solomon, 17

Christ is risen! The Breath of his mouth moves over the chaos wrought by sin, making out of death and corruption a new creation by far more wondrous than the first. Christ is risen! It is finished, the long labour of passion, cross, and tomb! His light has penetrated into the age-old shadows of Sheol’s caverns, causing Father Adam to stir from his ancient sleep. It is finished, the blessed Sabbath, the day of rest. Life’s strong hand takes hold of the prisoner of death and pulls him into the Eighth Day’s dazzling dawn! Mother Eve, all crooked and bent, stands up straight and, with ancient eyes grown dim in death, looks into the eyes of Life! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen! Abraham, long seated at the door of death, lifts up his eyes and looks. Behold the shining Guest encountered long ago by the oaks of Mamre! "My Lord, he says again, if I have found favour in your sight, do not pass by your servant" (Gen 18:3). Christ is risen! Sarah listens, and remembers the Voice. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Gen 18:14). Isaac, the only son, the beloved, trembles at the sight of the Lamb, "the First-Born from the dead" (Col 1:18). Christ is risen, and Jacob cries again, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Gen 32:30). Christ is risen!

Christ is risen, and Moses, rescued once from the waters of the Nile (Ex 2:10), Moses, who with outstretched arm, commanded the sea (Ex 14:27), Moses to whom God spoke face to face as with a friend (Ex 33:11) beholds the Son called out of Egypt (Hos 11:1; Mt 2:15), the Son called out of death, and sings: "You are my strength and my song, and you have become my salvation. You are my God and I will praise you . . . Who is like you, O Christ, among the gods? Who is like you majestic in holiness?" (Ex 15:1-2, 11). Miriam, the prophetess, leaps to her feet and dances on the shattered gates of bronze as once upon the seashore sands, and all the women follow, shuffling out of their shadows to dance death’s great defeat. Christ is risen!

Christ is risen, and Isaiah is jubilant! Life lifts his voice, and all the prophet’s oracles flower fresh upon his lips ! "The mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you . . . . O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear, and from terror, for it shall not come near you" (Is 54:10-11, 14). "With great compassion I will gather you" (Is 54:7); for this were my arms spread wide upon the Cross. "I hid my face from you" (Is 54:8), beneath shroud and napkin in the tomb, "but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you" (Is 54:8). Christ is risen!

Christ is risen! "Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters" (Is 55:1). Jerusalem of the desolate gates and groaning priests (Lam 1:4), all you who sought food to revive your strength (Lam 1:19), elders of the daughters of Zion who sat on the ground in silence, clothed in sackcloth, with dust on your heads (Lam 2:10), you who cried to your mothers, "Where is bread and wine?" — now "come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Is 55:1). "Eat what is good and delight yourselves in rich fare" (Is 55:2). You who paid for water to drink, who gave the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria, to get bread enough (Lam 5:4-6), come now to the Giver of seed to the sower and bread to the eater (Is 55:10). "O taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8). Isaiah jubilates, and Jeremiah laments no more, for Christ is risen!

Christ is risen! Baruch looks to the Lord, and is radiant (Ps 34:5) "With you is wisdom, he cries, with you, O Christ, is strength, with you is understanding. With you is length of days and life; with you, O Christ, is light for the eyes and peace " (cf. Bar 3:14). "I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Rev 22:12). I am he who prepared the earth for all time, filled it with four-footed creatures. I am he who sends forth the light, and it goes; I call it and it obeys me in fear. For me the stars shine in their watches; I call them and they say, ‘Here we are!’ They shine with gladness for my rising" (cf. Bar 3:32-34). Christ is risen!

Christ is risen! Ezekiel beholds "the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east; and the sound of his coming is like the sound of many waters" (Ez 43:1), and the caverns of the netherworld shimmer with his glory. Christ is risen! He who once saw water flowing forth from the right side of the temple (Ez 47:1) sees the Temple, raised up after three days, even as he said (Jn 2:19) and, from his side flows living water. "If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink" (Jn 7:37). "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses" (Ez 36:25). The gift of this night is a new heart for every breast; the gift of this night is the kiss of the Spirit! Give up your heart of stone; receive a heart of flesh, for Christ is risen!

Father Adam and Mother Eve, patriarchs, matriarchs, kings, and prophets, "rise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you" (Is 60:1)! Christ is risen, "saying to the prisoners, ‘Come forth,’ and to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear’" (Is 49:9)! Through the tender mercy of our God, the Dayspring visits us from on high (Lk 1:78).

Christ is risen, giving light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Lk 1:79). Christ is risen! This is the night of passage from death to life, from darkness to light, from sadness to joy! The tomb has become a womb. The tree of shame has become the Tree of Life and its fruit is sweet (Ct 2:3) to the taste of the living. The doors of the banqueting house are thrown open to all, and no one is excluded from the feast. Christ is risen!

Christ is risen, and death no longer has dominion over him (Rom 6:9). Christ is risen, and death is shamed. Christ is risen, and death is routed. Christ is risen, and death has not prevailed against the Prince of Life! We who have died with Christ, washed to death in the mystic bath, buried with him in the sepulchral waters, we who once emerged, all glistening and new, from Mother Church’s ever-fruitful womb, who were sealed with the Spirit and clothed in white, are called to the wedding banquet of the Lamb. We, like him, are dead to sin and alive to God (Rom 6:11)! Christ is risen! It was the day after the Sabbath, the dawn of the first day of the week, the eighth day, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary made their way to the tomb. The disciples kept away for grief, and shame, and prudence, and fear, but the myrrh-bearing women could not stay away, for "love is as strong as death" (Ct 8:6). Angelic brightness shone like lightning in their eyes. "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen as he said . . . . Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead" (Mt 28:5). They set out in haste, intrepid and wild with joy, only to be surprised by one "like a gazelle, like a young stag upon rugged mountains" (Ct 2:17). They "held him and would not let him go" (Ct 3:4), and adored him, prostrate at his feet. And Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me" (Mt 28:10).

Myrrh-bearing women, speak now to our hearts! Now say to us as to the disciples then, "Christ is risen!" Behold he comes, gathering myrrh with his spice, eating honeycomb with his honey, drinking wine with his milk (Ct 5:1). "Eat, O friends, and drink: drink deeply, O lovers" (Ct 5:1), for Christ is risen!


© Dom Marc-Daniel Kirby, O.Cist.