The Easter Vigil with the blessing of the Easter Fire, Oil, Water and the Paschal Candle, gives me a strange feeling of excitement ever since my childhood days. I don’t know why it gives me goose bumps. It continues to amaze me probably because I liken it to the tradition of lighting a bonfire during Girl Scouts camping season!
But the said excitement has quite changed to a different level as I grow up. The manner on how the Easter Vigil tradition is being undertaken makes it more significant, e.g. the gathering of the parishioners around the Easter Fire and the procession into the dark alleys of the Church with the lights switched off. It’s awe-inspiring to see the candles of each parishioners being lighted one by one, the source of which comes from the flame of the huge Paschal candle. It’s as if everyone is given another chance to shine and see their revitalized inner beauty from the dark as the candles are lighted and the floodlights inside the church flipped on!
But what do the Paschal candle and the candles carried by the parishioners stand for? As experts say, the Paschal Candle represents the Risen Christ, the Son of God, who brings light to all of us. Whereas, the flame from the small candles (carried by the faithful) which was sourced from the Paschal Candle symbolizes the faith that we receive from Jesus which we are obliged to share to others. And this is the kind of faith and the flame of God’s love which provides us an “Easterly” feeling of joy.
The joyful experience of Easter gives us opportunity to deepen our faith and it inspires us more to be better Christians after being forgiven of our transgressions. And these deepening of faith and inspiration requires some concrete actions from us since we serve as instruments of God to be the source of joy and the bundle of hope for others particularly those in dire need of help. Jesus shared the flame with us, and the said flame should not remain with us but it should be shared to others. This is a wonderful gift to us considering that the fire of God’s love can even shatter wickedness and so we have to nurture this gift.
Pope Francis enunciated in one of his previous Easter Vigil homilies about the hope and joy that Easter brings. He stated that it “is a lesson for the Christian faithful to cast aside the pessimism that can imprison people inside of themselves.” He further suggested that even if problems will continue to confront each and everyone of us, we should not “allow darkness and fear to distract us and control our hearts”. He indicated that Easter is the celebration of hope, because the Risen Christ also “awakens and resurrects hope in our hearts burdened by sadness”.
The Easter fire and the flame from the Paschal Candle while it literally didn’t burn us, it ignited instead our desire to change for the better. It inspired and gave us hope to continue as good Christians on earth. This is the reason why we renew our Baptismal vows and profess our faith during the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. We are re-born Christians every Easter Sunday as we get to renew our pledge as followers of Christ. Through the sacrament of Baptism, our sins are forgiven and thereafter, we are united with Jesus serving as bearers of His light by sharing our love and life that we receive from Jesus with others.
Same thing happens with those who have gone astray and whose lives were dying away in the midst of suffering and despair, most of the times they are given the opportunity by God to better their lives. One classic example is the experience of Micah, a 23-year old unwed mother and a high school drop out. She became a mother at 16 and was forced to accept a job (with no other better options available) to entertain people at a certain club in Japan so as to financially support her mother and child back home. By joining showbusiness, she thought it was God’s blessing to her as she got the chance to break away from the comfort zone she used to be. While she has not been completely reborn as follower of Christ, the said blessing (a new job environment) she received from God would at least pave the way to deepen her faith and trust in God. Her faith serves as her inspiration and a constant source of joy.
Each of us has our own frailties and weaknesses. The fire of God’s love is what we need. We have to ask from God for His flame or fire. The flame of the Paschal Candle which is the love of the Risen Christ is the kind of love and authenticity which we’ve been searching for. The world nowadays longs for that flame of love and hope. But as they say, it is not easy to acquire that fire in God’s love because it needs to be fed. We have to strive more to achieve it perfectly. Just like in our love relationship, there is no passion without fire that gives us energy. Same thing with our faith in God, if there is flame of God’s love, it becomes meaningful and fruitful. And when we are able to change lives, that flame of God’s love gives us that Easterly feeling of joy and happiness.
And so this Easter season, I pray and ask the Lord God to grant us all the blazing flame of His love to guide and inspire us in our quest for holiness. Amen
*cto for featured photos