Given at Westminster Cathedral at the Easter Vigil on 4 April 2015.
Our Vigil this evening started in a very deep darkness, and in many ways that is a harsh reality because there is much darkness in our lives. With the violence in Kenya, the wretchedness of those who have been forced away from their homes, and now in Northern Iraq, millions of displaced people. Think of the anxiety, the loneliness, the depression, jealousy and greed that characterise our lives. Yet tonight, a fire blazed, there is something very primal about a fire, and for us we can see it as symbolising that first power of God and the Holy Spirit that hovered over the chaos and brought forth the cosmos and ordered world. The fire stands for the beginnings of the work of creation, for the original creativity of God who is meant be seen in energy and purpose, and inventiveness and goodness. From that original fire, now has come forth a single light. That fire, as we heard in the readings, is struggling to survive through the unfaithfulness of people. Now it comes, a single light, which is inextinguishable, even by death, and that light has spread among us, from one to another, filling this place, becoming the Church. The light is Christ, the light that conquers darkness, the light we celebrate this night, that he is risen, and he lives with us.
How in our lives does this victory of Christ come to be real? Yes, it becomes real by God’s grace working within us as we strive to follow the person of Jesus; but how can we express that precisely this evening? By this light we are to live fully each day and always with a hope that is sure and certain. So we open our hearts to the present, a present that is full of the future. Tonight that it what we try to do; we try to grasp the light, to make it our own, just as we grasp the candle. This is my light. We open our hearts to receive the hope; a hope that St Paul spoke about; a hope that we are bound to Christ and therefore share his resurrection. And we resolve to seize the day, to live the day, to live every day to the full. You can put it like this, “this rising of the sun each morning is the rising of the Son of God and for that day I live by his light and exceed everything in his light.”
My mother used to say, at the beginning of every day, “This is the day the Lord has made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it, accept it, and live it to the full.” But we make each day in the light of a sure and certain hope because we know that all things will be fulfilled in Christ and nothing of what is true worth, nothing that reflects the truth and the love and the compassion of God, will ever be lost.
In this light of the risen Christ, we live fully each day with a hope for the future that is sure and certain. So often today we are tempted just to live for the moment, see what pleasure it can give us and not know about tomorrow. Sometimes it’s suggested that religion tempts us to abandon the present for a fanciful dream, a fanciful future that is detached from this day. Our faith does not do that. We live this day through God’s love and mercy, whatever its reality, facing its greatness and its failure. So for us, faith in Jesus is not escapism. We are profoundly committed to the day, to this world, to God’s world, to serving it in the light of His truth. And equally, our faith is not an ideology. Ideologies always want to destroy what is in their way. Our faith is not an ideology; it embraces what is in front of us only to heal and redeem through Christ, and with him in our hands and our hearts, that we play our part.
In a few moments we welcome new-comers to our life in Christ through baptism, through being received into the fullness of the life of the Church. For them, now opens up the hope for a future that is sure and certain for eternity, our eternal life in Christ. For them, now this new light rises by which they too are invited to live each day to its fullness. The risen Christ brings us peace for the day and great joy in his promises of eternal life together. He is risen. Alleluia. Amen.