Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Our chapel bathed in the Easter morning sun.
Happy Easter to all who read this! We rejoice in the reason for our faith--the rock foundation being the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was so uplifting to be present a the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. The pastor from Blessed Trinity Church where we attended Mass last evening explained the history of the Easter Vigil to all of us present. Keeping "vigil,", waiting up at night to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord, goes back probably to the second century of Christianity: People read Scripture and prayed all through the night in anticipation of the Lord's resurrection. So we read the Scriptures and pray for various intentions. Then the Alleluia is sung three times before the Gospel is proclaimed. All through Lent the alleluia was silent. In fact, in some places a ceremonial "burial of the alleluia" takes place on Ash Wednesday. It resurrected again last night as the alleluias were sung. I felt very happy to be a Roman Catholic--to be connected with all these centureies of belief and practice; to all the people of every culture who worship the same God with the same sacrifice and the same teachings from Scripture. It was good to see about 15 adults baptized or received int o full "Communion with the Roman Catholic church.
I want to pass on to you an Easter homily from Hong Kong. It is very upbeat. HK of course means Hong Kong.
Please enjoy it.
Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday, April 7-8, 2007 by M. Sloboda (Father Michael Sloboda, a Maryknoll priest serving in Hong Kong.)

Happy Easter!
I’ll begin and end with words of joy from the ancient Greek Church:
[Tonight] Today we rejoice in the salvation of the world.
Christ is risen; let us arise with him!
Christ enters new life; let us live in him!
Christ has come forth from the tomb;
Let us shake off the chains of evil!
The gates of hell are open,
The powers of evil are overcome!
In Christ, a new creation is coming to birth,
Lord, make us new,
Alleluia! [St. Gregory of Naziansus, 330-389]

Let’s look at those exclamations.
“[Tonight] Today we rejoice in the salvation of the world.” Jesus and all of his first disciples were Jewish. But the Good News has gone out to all the world. In this congregation, there might be several people with Jewish ancestry, but I see faces from every part of the world. St. Anne’s is a cross section of the human race, part of a universal church open to everyone, and the Greek adjective for universal is “catholic.”
“Christ enters new life; let us live in him!” Speaking of new life, tonight [last night] we will baptize a baby [name]. His mother was baptized at the Easter Vigil in the USA a few years ago, and his grandparents are visiting HK now. The Easter Vigil is the best time of year to baptize. In all the Catholic churches in HK, a total of 2550 adults and children will be baptized tonight. “Christ enters new life; let us live in him!” So after I baptize baby N, we will renew our baptismal promises.
This baby is one of the youngest residents of HK, but HK also has the oldest priest in the world. Fr. Nicholas Gao is a monk at the Trappist monastery on Lantau Island. Born on Jan. 15, 1897, he recently turned 110. The oldest citizen of HK has been thin all his life. He says a Rosary every day, and advizes people to “keep moving, keep praying, keep working, and never get angry, never get angry.” He is alert and can still take care of himself. He goes to bed early and rises when they ring the bell at 3:30 AM. He throws on his alb, ties a cincture, that is, a rope belt, and shuffles to the chapel for the first prayers of the day. Actually, he started slowing down at age 104 and now he does not have much energy. So some people are now whispering that Fr. Gao’s best days are behind him. On the contrary, I say that his best days are ahead of him, the endless days of eternal life.
As most of you know, I was seriously interested in astronomy years before I became seriously interested in the Gospel. I read a book review recently. An astronomer [Marcus Chown] wrote a book to explain the frontiers of science and the latest news in astronomy to the general public. He tackled big qns, like the origin of the universe and its long-term fate, in non-technical language and without a lot of math. Next, he needed an attention-grabbing title to entice people to buy his book. So he titled his new book The Never Ending Days of Being Dead. The Never Ending Days of Being Dead? That doesn’t sound like an attractive title to me. I’d rather read about the Never Ending Days of Eternal Life. Because Jesus triumphed over death, because he rose from the dead in a glorified body, the laws of physics will not have the final say over the universe. The Son of God will have the final word. Whatever our problems, there are better days ahead for us, and so we have hope.
Looking at the parents of baby N, they seem fully qualified to give their son an excellent start in life, a nice house, good medical care and first-class education. We all wish that N will grow up wise, loving and strong, and make a contribution to the world. We hope he will be in this world for a long time. When N turns 110 in October of the year 2116, the world will be a different place. On second thought, asking for 110 years on this earth might be overly ambitious. But the hopes of his parents and grandparents for N are not limited to this world only. They are bringing him into the church to ask for faith for him, and faith will give him eternal life, a share in the eternal life which Our Lord won for us by his death and resurrection.
They will be the first teachers of N in the ways of faith. May they also be the best of teachers by what they say and do. Setting a good example is the hard part. But in Christ a new creation is coming to birth, and Christ can make us new, alleluia!
Candles are the most noticeable feature of the Easter Vigil. So what? Today we take bright lights for granted. Everywhere in HK there are lights, too many lights, which are brighter than any candle. The city of Sydney recent turned off its downtown lights for an hour to demonstrate saving energy. However in this church a few years ago, the electricity stopped before the 6 PM Mass. It was late summer, so we still had some daylight. But by the time I got to the altar, it was growing dark, and those candles (plus someone standing next to me with a torch [flashlight]) gave me enough light to read the book. We take light for granted, but it is precious. Not everyone can see the sun at noon, and many people are blind to the light of truth.
I’ll end with an ancient Greek invitation, an invitation for all of us to rejoice at Easter:
Let everyone who loves God rejoice in this festival of light!
Let the faithful servants gladly enter into the joy of their Lord!
Let those who have borne the burden of fasting now come to celebrate the feast!
Let those who were inwardly dead now rise and dance with Christ, the Lord of life! [St. John Chrystostom 347-407]

Happy Easter!

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Happy Easter, S. M. Peter!

And thank you for your inspiring reflections and the Easter photo of your convent chapel!!

Continued blessings throughout these 50 days of Easter-ing!!!