Points to consider for the Easter Vigil readings

Detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Grunewald (1516)
Detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Grunewald (1516)

Given the nature of the Easter Vigil, only a short homily is appropriate. The following notes from the Homiletic Directory are points to consider.

To view the readings, click here.

  • For Easter Vigil, there are seven Old Testament readings, each followed by a responsorial psalm, a reading from St. Paul on baptism, and an announcement of the Resurrection from one of the Synoptic gospels (HD 48).
  • Taken together these readings express salvation history from man’s creation through our redemption in Christ. At the same time, “[w]e are plunged into the stream of salvation history by means of the Sacraments of Initiation, celebrated on this evening” (HD 49).
  • “The links . . . are so clear in this night between creation and the new life in Christ, between the historical Exodus and the definitive Exodus of Jesus’ Paschal Mystery in which all the faithful share through Baptism, between the prophets’ promises and their realization in the very liturgies being celebrated” (HV 49).
  • The significance of these readings should be clearly in the homilist’s mind. Though there is no time to preach on them at the Easter Vigil Mass, he can relate them back to this when they appear in other times of the year. (HV 48-49)
  • The Homiletic Directory also points out two very important sources present in the Easter Vigil readings for the homilist’s prayer, understanding, and preparation for other homilies throughout the year.
    • The prayers that follow each reading “express with simplicity and clarity the Church’s profound Christological and sacramental understanding of the Old Testament texts, as they speak of creation, sacrifice, the exodus, baptism, divine mercy, the eternal covenant, the cleansing of sin, redemption and life in Christ” (HD 50).
    • The responsorial psalms that follow the Old Testament readings should be seen as “poems sung by Christians who have died with Christ and now share with him in his risen life” (HD 50). They “demonstrate how the Church reads all Scripture in the light of Christ” (HD 50).
  • The readings for Holy Week and throughout the Easter Season present the central content of the Scriptures: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. The Church’s “central proclamation” is “that Jesus Christ died for our sins ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1 Cor 15:3) and that he rose on the third day ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1 Cor 15:4). (HD 51).
    • This does not mean that we believe the good news of Christ because the Bible tells us to. Rather, it means that the Paschal mystery was foretold in the Old Testament. The seven Old Testament readings, the accompanying psalms, and the prayer following each reading witness this.
    • We have two major reasons for believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first is how Christ was marvelously foretold in the Jewish Scriptures. He is the fulfillment of prophecies. The second is the miracles Christ performed. The greatest miracle, witnessed by the apostles, was his Resurrection from the dead.

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)






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