At the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday we do what Jesus did when he met with his disciples after he rose from the dead. “Beginning with Moses and the prophets, he interpreted for them what referred to him in the scriptures. (Luke 24:27) So we read first from the Book of Genesis, the story of the world’s creation. Jesus, the image of the invisible God, was there at the world’s creation and saw it was good.
We read other important stories from the Jewish Torah, the five books attributed to Moses, at the vigil. The story of Abraham ready to sacrifice his son is a reminder that God so loved world that he gave us his Only Son.
The Exodus story tells of God’s rescue of the Jewish people enslaved in Egypt. It’s never omitted from this night’s readings. God’s care for them reveals God’s care for whole human family. God calls the whole human family to be his children.
Prophets like Isaiah and Ezechiel and the psalms are also read during the vigil. They often speak of God’s gift of water, an essential sign of life in the Book of Genesis and other books of scripture.
Water is a gift of God, not only promised to the human family in the gift of baptism, but a sign of life for all creation. Paul’s Letter to the Romans celebrating the new life we have through Christ in the waters of baptism and a gospel account of Jesus’ resurrection complete the scripture readings during the Easter Vigil.
After the readings, we celebrate the presence of Jesus Christ in the signs of bread and wine. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus told his disciples.
Before reading the scriptures at the Easter Vigil, we light a fire, which burns on a candle placed next to the scriptures. Jesus Christ is the light come into the darkness of the world; he is life who came into the original chaos and now comes into the consequent darkness of our world. The Paschal Candle is a sign the Risen Lord is in our world now.
How shall we tell the story of the heavens and the earth today? What does the Risen Christ tell us today?
Today science knows more about the beginnings of our universe than the authors of the Book of Genesis did centuries ago. Earth came into being 4.5 billion years ago, scientists say. 500 million years ago, the first plants made our earth green. 140 million years ago, the flowers, and plants appeared that supported animal and place life. 7 million years ago, our hominid ancestors appeared. 20 thousand years ago our human ancestors migrated from Africa to other parts of our planet. 12 thousand years ago, the first humans came to the place where I’m living now.
Jesus Christ reveals something science cannot tell us about the earth itself and our human family. God who made the world still sees it as good. God still loves us and the world he made so much that he sent his only Son that we might live. God still guides the human family on its journey. God still sends light into our darkness, water that we might not die of thirst. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to his disciples when he rose from the dead. “Do not be afraid, I am with you,” he says to us today.