1 Apr 2018

Easter Vigil Homily of Fr Abbot Brendan Coffey OSB - Glenstal

Glenstal Abbey
Easter Vigil 2018
Fr Abbot Brendan Coffey OSB  
1 Apr 2018

Three women, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome; three women stumble across a discovery which will literally shake the very foundations of the earth. They were on their way to perform a simple and traditional act of compassion. They felt sadness and they felt sorrow, as we so often do in our own lives. What they did not know was that everything was about to change.


On this Most Holy Night all around the world, from Sidney to San Francisco, from Boston to Bodyke, Christians gather under the Easter Moon in the light of the paschal flame. This, the most significant event in human history, began in the depts of the tomb, hidden and unseen; just like creation itself. Everyone had either gone back to their homes or had run away! We have listened to the story of salvation from the very dawn of creation until this moment. We have listened to the fulfilment of promises and covenants, for this is the night!

        The Resurrection opens our eyes to behold the truth of the account of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good”. Everything revolves around that great moment and those brave women. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him and they had accompanied him to the very end, to the cross. They arrive at the entrance to the tomb and see that the stone is rolled back. This is the supreme moment. The women face their fear, they enter the tomb and it is empty!

        Something new has happened. “Do not be alarmed;” said the young man in the white robe, “you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” These three women do not get to see the Risen Lord at this moment. Instead the young man asks them to remember; remember Galilee and it is precisely this loving remembrance of the Master that eventually enables them to overcome their fear and bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles.

        Easter tells us that God has done something. Time is changed, as is history, we now call it Anno Domini. He is our history and so we tell our long story. “In Abel he was slain; in Isaac bound; in Jacob a stranger; in Joseph sold; in Moses exposed; in David persecuted; in the prophets dishonoured.” He is our tears and our hidden joy. He is the beggar to whom I give a coin and he is the secret rich reward which returns to the giver. He is in our suffering and misery as in our victory. He is in our weakness and he is our strength. He is even in the midst of our sin as mercy, patience and life. Caro cardo salutis, the flesh is the hinge of salvation.

        The Resurrection as an event belongs not only to the past but also to the present. The three women did not need to see him in that tomb, because I can meet the Risen Christ for myself here and now; just like Saint Paul, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the apostles and so many, many others through the centuries. Christ rose again, twenty centuries ago, but he is the Risen Christ as long as time continues. We do not discover the Gospel beginning at the beginning and it does not unfold as a story which one can believe or disbelieve. It begins when I meet the Risen Lord. He it is who lives on every page I read. He it is who is present here tonight with us.

          In a few moments we will move to the font, the Church’s womb, and bless the Easter water; the water of life. Then we will arrive at the altar and we will eat and drink and He will once more be present among us as he promised. This is the night when I can behold his light in darkness, hear the story of my salvation in his word, be touched by the cleansing waters of baptism and sit at table with him as He breaks the bread. If I meet him here tonight, then I will leave here a changed person and I will see the world and my brothers and sisters differently under this Easter Moon. The presence of the Risen Lord has become the blood marking the doorposts of our hearts. Open your heart, open your life and let the Risen Lord enter in. He has been waiting since the dawn of creation for this moment to give to you the gift of life.

Now that we have visited the tomb with the women, let us also go back with those women to our homes and places of work and bring this encounter with us as we proclaim the Resurrection.

          “Christ my hope, has risen: he goes before you into Galilee.”

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