26-27 March 2016: Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday

Lectionary note
The Lectionary presents two different sets of readings for Easter: the Easter Vigil mass, and the mass of Easter day. This commentary follows the readings for the Easter Vigil mass.

Easter Vigil readings

 OT reading  Response  NT reading  Response  Gospel
1. Gn 1:1-2:2

2. Gn 22:1-18

3. Ex 14:15-15:1

4. Is 54:5-14

5. Is 55:1-11

6. Bar 3:9-15, 32-4:4

7. Ez 36:16-17a, 18-28

1. Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35 or
Ps 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20, 22

2. Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

3. Ex 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18

4. Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

5. Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

6. Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11

7. Ps 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4 (Baptism) or
Is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6 (No baptism)

8. Rom 6:3-11 8. Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 9. Lk 24:1-12

Easter day readings

 Reading 1  Response  Reading 2  Gospel
 Acts 10:34a, 37-43  Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23  Col 3:1-4 or
1 Cor 5:6b-8
 Jn 20:1-9

He is not here

The Easter Vigil is the most important liturgy in the church year. The Lectionary presents seven Hebrew scripture readings and two Christian scripture readings, carefully chosen to highlight creation/re-creation, slavery/freedom, exile/return, as well as water (baptism), God’s Spirit (Confirmation), and messianic feast (eucharist) The readings are:

  1. Creation of the world (Gn 1:1; 2:2). This reading tells the story of God’s creation, from the dark, formless wasteland to humans in God’s likeness. The first creation, centered in goodness, prepares us for Christ’s new creation, which restores the world to God’s intended goodness.
  2. Sacrifice of Isaac (Gn 22:1-18). The “binding of Isaac” tells the story of a son who consents to be offered as a sacrifice. Jewish tradition associates this story with Passover; Christians understand Isaac as a type who foreshadows Jesus’ sacrificial death.
  3. Escape from Egypt (Ex 14:15-15:1). This reading tells of the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt through the sea. Just as the Hebrews passed from slavery to freedom through the water, so also new Christians pass from the slavery of sin to the freedom of new life through baptism’s waters.
  4. Your husband is your maker (Is 54: 5-14). In this reading, Isaiah uses marriage as a metaphor for Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity. The Jewish people imagined this return as a “second Exodus”–they were again freed from bondage in a foreign land. Christians see both saving events–the escape from Egypt and the return from Babylon–as foreshadowing Christ’s ultimate saving event: his death and resurrection.
  5. Come to the water (Is 55: 1-11). In this reading Isaiah invites everyone to come to the messianic feast of the new covenant. This banquet offers not just food but divine forgiveness. Christians recognize this messianic banquet as the eucharist. In Jesus, God’s Word achieved God’s end: Jesus’ death and resurrection restores our relationship with God.
  6. The book of God’s precepts (Bar 3: 9-15, 32-4:4). In this Wisdom reading, Baruch reminds Israel that exile can be spiritual as well as physical. The Torah is God’s wisdom personified. Christians know Jesus as God’s wisdom incarnate; his death and resurrection leads us from spiritual exile to God’s presence.
  7. Stony hearts become flesh hearts (Ez 36: 16-28). Ezekiel also speaks of exile and return. Return means purification (“sprinkle clean water”), new hearts to know God’s law, and a new spirit to live as God’s people. Christians hear the call to baptism, to become God’s children and receive the Spirit.
  8. Baptized in Christ’s death (Rom 6: 3-11). This reading is the turning point from Hebrew scriptures to Christian scriptures, and from prophecy to fulfillment. Baptism moves us from darkness to light, from death to life, from exile to resurrection.
  9. He is not here (Lk 24: 1-12). The perfect summary of the paschal mystery: He has been raised. Peter, like all of us, returns home amazed.

This is the night when RCIA catechumens and candidates live the liturgy’s messages: they are baptized and made new; the receive God’s Spirit in Confirmation; they join us at the messianic banquet in eucharist. Christos anesti! Christ is risen!

—Terence Sherlock

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