Saturday, April 19, 2014

Homily for the Easter Vigil

Homily for the
Easter Vigil
March 29, 1997
Gen 1: 26-31
Provincial House, New Rochelle

I have Easter “off,” so to speak—just concelebrating at home without any “outside” obligation. Here’s an old homily delivered here at home.

“God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’  God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.  God blessed them….  God looked at everything he had made and he found it very good” (Gen 1: 26-28, 31).

Adam & Eve in the Garden
by Lucas Cranach
On the 6th day God made creatures in his own image.  On the 6th day God found what he had created to be not only “good,” as on the 1st 5 days, but “very good.”

This exceeding goodness must be because God’s own authority, his order, his purposeful fruitfulness had become part of the created world, exercised by creatures—male and female humans—created in God’s own likeness:  full of life, holy, self-giving.  These human creatures were God’s viceroys, sharing in the divine dominion over the rest of creation.

That was God’s plan.  We know what happened next:

                        God’s plan made a hopeful beginning,
                        But man spoiled his chances by sinning.
                                    We trust that the story
                                    Will end in God’s glory,
                        But at present the other side’s winning.

The Exsultet—quoting St. Augustine, I think—calls our fall from grace a “happy fault”; not in itself, surely, but in the great consequence of our fall, namely, that God adapted his plan to give us new hope.  He made a new creation.  He restored the divine image and likeness in man, male and female.

That is what we celebrate tonight.

No longer are our chances spoiled.  No longer is the other side winning.

The Father of all things created a human body for his Only Son, with the cooperation of a human being, Mary of Nazareth.  Jesus Christ, the Only Son in his human body—and in all else that it means to be human—reversed the course of history, reversed man’s relationship with his Creator and our prospects for eternity.

Jesus Christ, son of God and son of Adam, by his obedience, by his passion and resurrection, has made all of us sons and daughters of Adam into a new creation.  He has restored the image of God, has once more made mankind the crown of God’s creation.

In the Easter collect, after the Gloria, we prayed that God “quicken the spirit of sonship” in his Church.  Quicken here is used in its old English meaning of “make alive,” “give a sudden renewal of life”; and indeed the prayer continues:  “Renew us in mind and body to give you wholehearted service.”

By our Baptism in the water that flowed from Christ’s pierced side, by our anointing with the holy chrism at Baptism and in Confirmation, we have been made new, made into the image of God’s Son, quickened like Adam when God 1st breathed life into him, quickened like the entombed body of Jesus himself, consecrated with Christ among all the created universe for service to God.

Christ is risen, and with him are we also.  Quoting Augustine now (for certain, this time):

Of ourselves we had no power to live, nor did he of himself have the power to die.  Accordingly, he effected a wonderful exchange with us, through mutual sharing:  we gave him the power to die; he will give us the power to live.[1]

Whether or not Adam’s sin was a happy fault, this is surely a happy exchange, that we gave the Son of God a mortal body, and he offers us everlasting life.

The Father was very pleased with his beloved Son.  May he look on his new children and see in us his Son’s image.  May he find us once again “very good” and bless is.

                [1] Sermo Guelferbytanus 3.

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