The Resurrection of our Lord and Savior has consecrated the vigil of this most sacred night for us, dearly beloved, as we have heard from the Gospel reading. Rightly do we celebrate this night with watching and hymns, out of love for Him who, out of love for us, willed to spend it in the sleep of death and to be raised from the dead. As the Apostle says, He died for our transgressions and rose to make us righteous. [Romans 4;25; I Cor. 15:3].
He revealed this by the times at which He died on the Cross and rose from the dead. He brought the mystery of His victorious passion to fulfillment about three o’clock in the afternoon, when day was already declining toward evening and the rays of the sun were becoming cooler after the midday heat. This is a clear suggestion that He had submitted to the gibbet of the Cross in order to take away the wicked deeds by which we fell away from divine light and love into the night of this estrangement from Him. He rose on the morning of Sunday, which is now called the Lord’s day, clearly teaching that He would bring us, once we had been raised up again from the death of our souls, into the light of everlasting bliss.
The evangelist says, On the Sabbath evening which was growing on toward the dawn of Sunday, when the customary order of time would have the evening darkening into night, rather than growing on toward dawn. Speaking mystically, the evangelist was striving to suggest the great dignity this most sacred night acquired from the glory of our Lord’s victory over death. Our Lord, the author and controller of time, he who rose from the dead during the final part of the night, surely caused the whole of it to be festal and bright by the light of his resurrection.
From the beginning of the world’s creation until this time, the course of time was so divided that day preceded night,according to the order of its primeval making. On this night, because of the mystery of our Lord’s Resurrection, the order of time was changed. He rose from the dead during the night, and on the following day He showed the effect of His Resurrection to His disciples. Having shared a feast with them, He proved the truth of His power as they wondered and rejoiced. Most properly was night joined to the light of the following day, and the order of time so settled that day would follow night. It was once appropriate that night follow day, for by sinning the human race fell away from the light of paradise into the darkness and hardships of this age. It is appropriate that day follow night now, when through faith in the Resurrection we are led back from the darkness of sin and the shadow of death to the light of life by Christ’s gift.
Wherefore, dearly beloved, we who have come to know that this special night has been illumined by the grace of our Lord’sResurrection must also take particular care lest any least part of it become dark in our hearts. All of it should become light as day for us, especially now when we are keeping vigil with the devotion of worthy praise, and are awaiting with a pure and sober conscience the feast of Easter Sunday when we have completed this vigil…
Thus when the last trumpet arouses the entire human race, and summons it before the tribunal of the just Judge, the sign of our Judge with which we were made holy may separate us from the lot of the condemned, and the vigil in which we have awaited His coming may separate us from the punishment due to those who are negligent. When the latter have received fitting chastisement, He Himself will lead us into the dwelling place of heavenly peace which He promised us from of old, He who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God throughout all ages of ages. Amen.