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Easter Vigil Homily: This is the Night

This is the script of Fr. Luke Downing’s homily at the Easter Vigil Mass on April 3, 2021.

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music; I live my daydreams in music; I see my life in terms of music.”

So says the great Albert Einstein. But it doesn't take an astrophysicist to unfold the mystery of melody in our lives. It’s entirely intuitive and utterly simple. It’s something to which the soul spontaneously responds, something that wells up from the depths of our being. It's not something too mysterious and remote for you. No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts.

Where words fail, music speaks, and it says, “This is the night.”

Whether it stems from the initial serenade to a colossal candle in this dark church, or the Alleluia that I start way too high and stumble over on its runaway melody – this is the night.

This is the night of music. This is the night of the Resurrection. And this is the night of glory.

Music portrays profound value. It expresses, reveals and articulates the unutterable. It gives voice to depths of profound beauty, which are pried open through poetry or love. And this is the night of the glorious radiance of the most poetic Word ever spoken: Jesus Christ. This is the night of a love that is stronger than death, and we have reason to sing.

As the idea of heat is dramatically different from the direct experience of warmth upon the hand, the glory of Christ risen from the dead is not merely an idea. It is a glory that burns its mark and sears itself into our lived daily experience. It is a radiant glory that transforms our inmost being and makes us succeed – and this is the night.

And just like the warmth of a flame, sin and death are not some theory that we project onto our own lived experience in attempts to understand and domesticate it. They are the objective reality, the state of affairs of our own hearts, our dramatic need for salvation. Our capacity, or lack thereof, to be sensitive to and respond to the presence of a brilliant radiance of God’s love and light poured into us. The spontaneity and freedom to dance in response to the melody of Jesus Christ that is sung into our souls on this night. Sin and death are the true “quarantines” against the desired expansion and dilation of our souls in the presence of the tenderness and goodness of God. And we don't have to be imprisoned in this restrictedness of soul, for this is the night.

This is the night where the ailment of Adam is put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. This is the night where glorious life floods us – not where we search and find the light that saves us according to our own schemes and devices. This is the night where even our own sealed tombs can’t restrict the power of our victorious King. This is the night for earth to be glad as glory floods her, arrayed with the lightning of his glory. And what else can express that but a melody of profound joy, overflowing from the depths of the soul, from within the walls of this very church?

Let this holy building shake with joy. This, of course, refers to much more than this roped-off, painter’s-taped church. For you are living stones, being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, worshiping in spirit and truth, sought by the Father. You do this through love. You do this through prayer. You do this through hearts flooded and saturated by the glory of His holy life, risen from the dead, and this is the night.

Hundreds of candles contribute to illuminate this dark church on this night. But infinitely more than those little 4-inch sticks of wax, let your lives become that flame of glory. Let your own heart be that flame by the grace of Jesus Christ. Let the very radiance of your lives, endowed with the glory of Jesus Christ risen from the dead pour forth and flood your homes and the walls of this world with its light. For this is the night of the Resurrection. This is the night in which the soul must sing. This is the night of music.