"Please don't let this flame go out!" "I hope it doesn't rain!" "God, it's starting to rain. I knew it would!" "Please! Please! Don't go out!" It's the fear of every celebrant just after they have blessed the Paschal Fire to mark the beginning of the Easter Vigil. The fire is great, it's the candle that's the problem. It's great to be outdoors, it’s great to have a big fire burning - the bigger the better, in the liturgies I celebrate. But the candle! Once you bless the fire you have to light the Paschal candle. There's always that walk from the fire to the Church. That small, delicate, flame. It's so fragile, it's so tiny, and small. You want to protect it. You feel so uncertain about it. Will it survive? As the procession moves off you realize just how small and insignificant that little flame is. It's surrounded by darkness, a darkness, it seems, that it cannot overcome, a darkness it cannot subdue. The flame is so small, so insignificant, it's so powerless. And the darkness seems to be so great, so overwhelming, so threatening, and there's so much of it - everywhere. And yet! It is our little flame, our tiny light, our Paschal fire that leads the way. And we follow. We enter the darkness of the barren Church. Silence, stillness, and the overpowering darkness. Into the darkness pushes our little light. Tiny! Yet, we are drawn to it. Faces in the darkness turn to see, they smile with its arrival. They are excited by its presence. Their faces barely visible but this tiny light reaches out to touch and embrace them. We are drawn to the light. As we stand there in the darkness, in the company of the Light we begin to realize that maybe this little light is not so insignificant after all. In the darkness, it stands alone, and yet, it draws us to itself. "Christ our Light!" The Deacon sings out on behalf of the light. Christ has entered into the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered Him. His light, although small, fragile, and seemingly insignificant, still burns bright, still burns strong, still burns for us. And that light is no longer isolated. Once He is acclaimed, once He is acknowledged, now this light, who is Christ, moves out and consumes those around Him. The "Light of Christ" moves into the body of the Church, and as He processes forward, His light is shared with those gathered around. It passes from one to another: shared, given, and received. Forward the light moves and again calls out: "Christ our Light." Again, He is shared, again He is given and again, He is received. The darkness cannot hold Him. The darkness cannot subdue Him. The darkness cannot overcome Him. Christ, the light moves through the darkness, and the darkness retreats as He passes. Pushed now the darkness is exiled to the corners, the shadows, distant places. "Christ our Light." The Deacon sings for the third and final time, and as he does, the sacred ministers turn to look back upon their path, upon the path the Lord has just walked as this sacred flame. And what do they see there? LIGHT! The Light of Christ! What was fragile, small, and isolated, what was a flickering and insignificant flame is now a burning fire that has overcome, expelled, and subdued the darkness which once seemed to reign in this place. The whole Church, once in darkness and barren, is now radiant in the warmth of Christ’s light. The darkness exiled - we realize that the Church was not barren - seen through the Light of Christ it is fruitful and full of life. You look back into the body of the Church, you look at the Body of the Church, the Body of Christ, and you realize: Yes! Alone, the light of Christ can be fragile, small, vulnerable, but it is never really alone, it is never really isolated, and it most certainly is never really insignificant. You look back and you realize that the light of Christ is to be shared, and in sharing it is strong, when shared it is powerful, when shared it lights the whole world and it overcomes the darkness. But there is more; in the light of the Easter Flame, in the light of the Easter Fire, the true "Light of Christ" can be seen. In the flame of the Easter light, the true face of Christ can be glimpsed, not in symbol; not in sign; but in the faces of those who have received that light, in the faces and hearts of those who have taken this flame into their hearts. In the faithful people of Christ who have gathered. Truly, here is the Light of Christ. When that sacred minister turns back to see the path that Christ's light has passed along, he is greeted with the face of Christ, and he is overjoyed. Here is Easter! Here is our reason to Celebrate! Here is our Lord! He lives in each of us! "Thanks be to God."
Wishing you all a very happy and joyful blessed Easter. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Alleluia!