You may be wondering why I chose this prayer for this week. There are many prayers in the Roman Missal for Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday, but when I thought about the fire, I knew this was at the one.
The Blessing of the Fire
O God, who through your Son bestowed upon the faithful the fire of your glory, sanctify this new fire, we pray, and grant that, by these paschal celebrations, we may be so inflamed with heavenly desires, that with minds made pure we may attain festivities of unending splendor. Through Christ our Lord.
This is the night. Those are some of my favorite Easter words, this is the night. I joined the Church in 1999 and that night I knew that Easter Vigil was my favorite service of the whole year. Why? Because we know what happens next and the Christians, living many years ago, didn’t.
The Easter Vigil Liturgy begins after sundown. It is usually dark. In my church it is really dark, which makes it even better. The liturgy begins with the lighting of a new Easter fire.
The Mass begins outside the church, although I remember a few years when a brave priest and a volunteer firefighter, armed with a fire extinguisher, lit the the new Easter fire inside the church, which is the main reason my sons loved being the mass servers at Easter Vigil.
This new fire is used to light the paschal, or Easter candle, and that candle leads the procession into dark church. As the light is carried, we hear the words, “The Light of Christ.” The people respond, “Thanks be to God.”
A dark church with a the light of a single candle is the perfect way to see what it it was like when the light of Christ came in to the world. One year, on a family vacation when our boys were little, we toured a cave in Missouri. Everything went fine while everyone had their flashlight on, but when we were deep in the cave, the tour guide had us turn off the lights. It was really dark. What I didn’t expect to learn on that tour was how my eyes searched for light, but there was none - until one of my boys wiggled and believe me, his light-up shoes were a welcome sight.
In the first reading of the Easter Vigil, we hear the story of creation. The world was dark, and God said, “Let there be light” and God saw how good the light was.
After the fall of Adam and Eve in Eden, the world once again was in the dark. The rest of the whole story of Salvation History is the story of mankind, walking in darkness, just like that dark church at Easter Vigil, just like standing in a cave, searching for light.
On Christmas Day, that Light was born, and just as He was loved and adored, he was also despised. Which leads us to Easter Vigil and the fire. That night, a night like no other in the history of the world, the Light of Christ changed the world.
The fire not only symbolizes the light of God’s glory in the world, it sanctifies us. Just as we ask God to sanctify the fire, he sanctifies us. Malachi 3:2 tells us how God will be like a refiner’s fire, purifying the gold. With minds made pure, we can attain, or acquire, festivities of unending splendor. This does not mean that the splendor begins when we die, it begins today, Easter Sunday, and we can live in this splendor for eternity.
The fire also symbolizes our hearts, inflamed with heavenly desires. Just as the priest lights and stokes the fire at Easter Vigil, in the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, we pray, "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” This is the same love that God has for us, that gave us his Son. It is the same love that gave Jesus the strength to die for us. It is the love that the Holy Spirit wants to kindle in us. It is the flame that is the light of Christ.
Thanks for praying with me,