The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Easter Vigil Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Holy Saturday. Father Justin Kerber, Cathedral Rector, and Father Edward Wolanski concelebrated.
Roughly 600 men and women were welcomed into the Church during the Easter Vigil in parishes throughout the Diocese of Raleigh. The “Elect” received the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. Those termed “Candidates” entered into full communion in the Church, either having been baptized in other Christian traditions or who were baptized in the Catholic faith but never completed the sacraments of initiation.
The Easter Vigil is rich in Catholic tradition and spiritual symbolism. The Mass is considered the most beautiful liturgy in the Catholic Church’s calendar. With the faithful gathered inside the church, all the lights are off and the tabernacle is empty, symbolizing the tomb. Outside, a fire is lit and blessed by the presider. From that fire, the Paschal Candle is lit and blessed.
The candle is then carried throughout the church, with the deacon lifting the candle at three different times, singing: Christ our light (Lumen Christi), and the congregation sings in reply: Thanks be to God (Deo gratias). From the Paschal Candle, everyone lights their candle from the Easter candle and continues in procession until the whole church is lit. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World. The Mass then continues with the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism, and the Liturgy of Eucharist.
Helping to put this year’s Easter celebration in context of recent international events, Bishop Burbidge said, “We began our Easter Vigil in darkness, symbolizing the darkness of our world of which we are sadly aware, especially in light of the recent attacks in Brussels, in the lack of reverence for all human life and the dignity for all persons. We also know the darkness of our own lives due to our sins and the chaos that surrounds us.”
He went on to say, “Acknowledging the darkness in our world, nation, and lives is a moment of grace. For then, we recognize our total dependency on Christ, the Light of the World. Thus, at the beginning of this Liturgy we blessed the fire and lit the paschal candle, symbolizing that Jesus Christ has dispelled the power of the darkness. The tomb is open; the Light is shining, and we celebrate the new life that is ours in the Risen Lord.”
Bishop Burbidge spoke of the commitment made by those who decided to enter the Catholic Church this Easter. “May you be renewed in that commitment so that in word and deed you proclaim that Jesus Christ, Risen today, is the Light who has dispelled the darkness and the One who allows us to walk in newness of life both now and forever.”
On Easter Sunday, Bishop Burbidge celebrates the 10:30 AM Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral.