Sermons

April 21: Easter Sunday

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Alleluia, Psalm 118:1-2.

 

The lighting of the Easter Candle

Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.

All time belongs to him and all the ages. To him be glory and power through every age and forever. Amen.

May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our own hearts and minds.

My dear friends, standing in the awesome glory of this holy light, invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God the Almighty, that he, who has pleased to number us among his friends, may pour into us his light without shadow, that we may sing this candle’s perfect praises.

Christos anesti! Christ is risen!
Alithos anesti! He is truly risen!

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Blessing of the Easter Water

Springs of water — bless the Lord; praise and exult him above all forever.

O God, who by invisible power accomplish a wonderous effect through sacramental signs and who in many ways prepared water, your creation, to show forth the grace of Baptism in us.

O God, whose Son baptized by John in the waters of the Jordon, was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and as he hung upon the Cross, gave forth water from his side along with blood, and after his Resurrection, commanded his disciples: “Go forth, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” look now, we pray, upon the face of your people and graciously unseal for us the fountain of baptismal grace.

May the power of the Holy Spirit, O Lord, we pray come down through your Son into the fullness of this font, so that all who have been buried with Christ by Baptism into his death may rise again to life with him. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Springs of water — bless the Lord; praise and exult him above all forever. Amen

 

With its light, this candle and the refreshing waters of baptism mark our lives, providing direction in our journey now and in everlasting life. This morning our prayers turn to the 200 or more victims of religious violence in Sri Lanka. While the Christian minority, mostly Roman Catholics represent 7.6 percent, for the past eleven Sundays, Masses across this island nation have been disrupted. Today’s explosions, according to news accounts, have pitched this nation into chaos and the worst since civil war ten years ago.

Jesus and his cross and resurrection are the centerpieces of this faith. So vividly witnessed this past week at one of the world’s most cherished sites, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

For those of us watching on television, the young people gathered on the streets near the cathedral were the embodiment of the church and gave meaning to the idea of a parish community.  As Elizabeth Lev, one of our country’s top art historians, noted: “The Greek word for church is ecclesia — people gathered together.”

In their songs, prayers, and tears over the destructive fire, they represented our best aspirations of faith, hope, and rebirth.

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Here in California, in towns like Paradise, we know the effects of fire and the loss of lives and homes. Thankfully, no one died as a direct result of the Paris fire, however such blazes deeply touch our community and challenge our spirits with such emotional impact. Two elements about the cultural impact on France stood out for me.

First, the Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris has no street address as such. Why? The distances to/and from Paris are measured from a point in the plaza in front of the church. In effect, Notre Dame itself remains the center of French life, religious devotion, and culture.

Among the many images that I glanced about the fire was a simple cartoon in one of the French newspaper. Here a tearful Quasimodo, the hunchback himself, embraces the very church building that is his home.

The writer Victor Hugo completed his novel, entitled “Notre Dame de Paris” in 1830. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is the English title and references the film versions of this classic with an array of actors like Lon Chaney, and Charles Laughton, and more recently an animated Disney film.

It’s the story of a deformed man who rang the bells at the cathedral, only to cause his deafness and is a saga about love, romance, and loyalty. It’s also a setting for a vast cathedral space, with rooftops and gargoyles.

Literary research shows Hugo himself had befriended a cathedral worker, a stone-cutter by trade and a hunchback, who may have given Victor Hugo the idea for his central character.

The novel opens with the archdeacon of the Notre Dame cathedral rescuing a young boy from an orphanage and bringing him to live and work in the confines of the cathedral. The archdeacon named him “Quasimodo,” among the most familiar names in world literature.

In the novel, the event of the boy’s rescue occurs on the Sunday after Easter. His name is Quasimodo since the opening antiphon for Mass begins (in Latin) with the words “Quasi Modo.” The antiphon reads: “Like newborn infants, you must long for the pure spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation. Alleluia.” (1Pt 2:2)

In Latin, there is a comparison by using “quasi modo” which is in English is translated: “just like.” A short cut name for this Sunday was once “Quasi Modo Sunday;” having nothing to do with the novel and everything to do with the opening verse of the Mass.

More important, for Victor Hugo, the cathedral with its vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, an flying buttresses, and vast space housed the hurt, the bruised, the needy, the homeless, and those orphans like Quasimodo, the bell ringer.

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In a way, we are all like Quasimodo – in need of mercy, refuge, serenity, and healing as we come here into this tiny chapel — no matter how we present ourselves, these doors are open to you and all.

On Tuesday, as Paris’s firefighters and newspaper photographers entered into the nave of the Cathedral, there was the image the main altar and the golden cross reaching out to charred remains of the collapsed roof, but also the cross is reaching out to us on this Easter Sunday.

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Even with such devastating effect, it’s not merely a matter of rebuilding, but rather re-imagining how our spiritual lives emerge and embrace a new life.

So what might this say about this Easter and the Lord’s resurrection and new life?

Recently I came across the writings of college professor/theologian, Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio who writes: “For how we love and the degree to which we love is how to live forever.”

On this Easter Sunday, Sister Ilia reminds us to lean on the power of God and says:

“God lives in us and the world in a new way. Open the doors and let God in. Fear is driven out by perfect love. If we can really begin to love in the path of suffering and death by leaning on the power of God’s love within, then we will not die, and the world will find its peace. For how we love and the degree to which we love is how to live forever.”

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

“The Hymn of the Cherubin” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, draws on Russian Orthodox chant, a powerful and prayerful sentiment for Holy Week and Easter.

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