Sermon preached by Rev. Robert Brucciani at Ss. Joseph & Padarn's, London Easter Sunday 21st April 2019.
Identification with those who rejoiced
During the last week, my dear brethren, we have heard the four accounts of the Passion of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We have witnessed the rejection of He who loves us enough to die for us by His chosen race, by the secular powers - the gentiles - and by His closest friends - precisely when He needed them most.
And in all the characters that made that Sacred Heart suffer so much, my dear brethren, there is one thing that is common. In everyone of them, save perhaps Judas Iscariot, if we look closely enough we can see ourselves:
- Yes, it was me who fled, at the first sign of danger in the garden of Gethsemani
- Yes, it was me who swore that I would stand by my Lord even to death, and then denied Him thrice.
- Yes it was me struck the Holy Face and spat upon him to please my peers.
- Yes it was me who was prepared to sacrifice my Lord for the good of the people, for human respect.
- Yes it was me who went along with the crowd and shouted Crucifige, Crucifige eum!
We are all sinners, my dear brethren, but because we are here on this Easter morn, although we have crucified Our Saviour, He has won us back. And just as we might identify ourselves in the past with His executioners, today and may it be for ever, we can identify ourselves with Mary Magdelan, Mary the mother of James and Salome, with the apostles Peter and John.
What must have been there happiness! It is the happiness of the whole Church, the elation of victory, or sharing in victory of the generation upon generation of those regenerated by that which was one two thousand years ago.
And to express this joy, instead of trying to describe it, I shall read what has been read for 1600 years: the Preaconium Paschale. It was thought to have been written by St. Augustine and is read during the Easter Vigil by a deacon in white dalmatic, representing Mary Magdalen, the first to meet the risen Christ and it expresses what she and the whole Church must feel. It is bursting with elation, exhilaration enough to make one smile spontaneously:
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle's perfect praises.
Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right and just.
It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.
This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children, from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants' hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.