In Silent Waiting for the Light: Our Holy Saturday Vigil with reflections of A Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Today is a day of silence as we wait and hope for the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Tonight we will gather for the Easter Vigil in our churches together. We will first sit in darkness as the Easter candle is lit from new fire and carried into the church. It is a wonderful moment as “the Light of Christ” is proclaimed three times by the priest leading the procession to the Altar. Beautiful prayers of God’s deliverance follows. The lights are now on.
Then in the LITURGY OF THE WORD, we follow salvation history, God’s work to reach humankind, from Genesis and Exodus through the Prophets and Psalms to New Testament and the Gospel. It is the history of the Jewish covenant leading up to Christ. As one who does not eat animal flesh I particularly love the image of the original creation, the Genesis reading that ends with how God provides food for all living beings from the trees and seeds, and the fruits of the land (Genesis 1:29). And God looked upon all of God’s creation and said “it was very good”. And I love the Exodus story where the Hebrew people are rescued by God from the Egyptian oppressors. And the efforts of the prophets and the praise, glory and sometimes agony in the Psalms. I love the gospel account of Mary of Magdalene and the other women finding the empty tomb and being commissioned as the apostle to the apostles by telling them ” He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him as he told you.” Mark 16:1-7. we know that at first, predictably, the men did not believe them (Luke 24:1-12), but then John and Peter ran to the tomb and found out that indeed he was not there, he was risen and they would meet him on the road, and in many other ways and places attesting to his full life in the days to follow.
In my Holy Thursday blog I noted the NY Times article “What if there were no Exodus in the Bible? and its explicit connection to the struggles of black people in this country and wherever slavery and racism and the dehumanizing of peoples reigns. Yesterday there was another excellent NY Times article by New Testament Professor Esau McCaulley on Easter and the Resurrection from the Black perspective. For a clear connection to today’s world and one which I and our Good Shepherd people embrace the reader may see:
The HOMILY then follows the reading of Salvation history. In Pope Francis’ homily today (4/16/2022) he asks that we allow the women of the Gospel to lead us. Referring to the Gospel account in Luke 24:1-12, he suggests that they SAW, HEARD and PROCLAIMED. He captures well the fear. “they were terrified”, and anxiety they had at being told and seeing that Jesus was not in the tomb. He suggests that we often prefer to leaver Jesus in the tombs of old understanding and in the small boxes of our own construction rather than allowing Him to be free and walk among us transforming our lives right now. The women listened carefully when they heard “He is not here”. He noted that we cannot welcome Easter if we continue to be dead. We must hear the words and accept them deeply within us that Jesus is not in a tomb of the past. He is here now with us acting among us, enlivening us. Indeed then the women RAN to proclaim the joy of the resurrection whether anyone would listen to them or not. They immediately became missionary disciples, apostles, sharing the good news not an “idle tale” from the past but testifying to what they had seen , heard and experienced right then. We too must allow Jesus to rise again from the small boxes where we have imprisoned him as if the past contains him. Jesus enters the tomb of our sins and our deep darkness and all that keeps us from rising with him. Pope Francis broke from his script and his face was clearly moved as he addressed the Mayor and Parliamentary and people of war torn Ukraine in their suffering. He said “we can only give you our closeness, and prayers and say have courage, we are with you. Christ is Risen! Yes, even in the midst of war and suffering the risen Christ is there. In the darkest places of our lives Christ is there and we welcome the risen Christ!
And truly too, the prayer of the women who are Roman Catholic Priests is that Pope Francis and the leaders of the church he must deal with can indeed “allow the women to Lead us” even as ordained priests. Several of us have walked the road of the priesthood for many years now and while we do not want particularly to lead we do want to be seen and heard and to proclaim the risen Christ with our brothers.
Next is the Liturgy of Baptism
After the reading of Salvation History those who have prepared for a period of time to embrace the Christian faith within the RC tradition come forth for Baptism and /or reception/initiation into the church. The baptismal creed is affirmed and all present also affirm their Baptismal promises. (When there are no new baptisms, all present affirm their Baptismal promises). As we die with Christ in Baptism so we are raised to new life in Baptism. They don white garments and receive the laying-on-of hands by the bishop and are sealed with holy chrism oil and receive Holy Communion. This is a moment of resurrection for all present.
For Holy Saturday reflections of earlier years please click on this link and put Holy Saturday into the search space top right.
Here are the two different times that some of our Good Shepherd members ready themselves to receive Baptism and also Confirmation-to rise with Christ into new life. The first picture is Confirmaton with Bishop Andrea Johnson as celebrant, and the second, two years earlier, with Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. The third picture is the baptism of Brenda Cummings who was confirmed two years later, far left, in the picture below.
And finally in the Easter Vigil we celebrate the Eucharist, our thanksgiving for the death and resurrection of Christ with those gathered. In the bread and wine Jesus comes among us in the Eucharist. He enters us with risen life. And we look forward to the time when we shall see him face to face.
And so this Holy Saturday we once again await Christ’s Rising and taking away our darkness. We welcome him to be with us and in our world fully alive now. We join the women in proclaiming that He Lives! Thanks be to God!
Bless you on this Holy Saturday,
Pastor Judy Lee
rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP,
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida