I grew up in Rhode Island on a beach, right where the Atlantic ocean meets a bay that takes ships 40 miles up to Providence. On an island about two miles out, there is a lighthouse. We had a lot of windows, few curtains, so the light would sweep my bedroom every 45 seconds. It was the ultimate night light - comforting – consistent – it never went out. For the ships it was of course much more than a night light - it provided safe passage and was a beacon marking the channel that brings travelers and ships home.
This evening we gather bathed in the light of the Easter candle – a light more powerful than all the world’s lighthouses. It too stands as a beacon, reminding us of the essential truth of this day: that God has raised Christ from the dead. He is Risen, and darkness is forever conquered. Every Easter candle in Christendom bears witness to the truth of what we celebrate today: that He is risen from the tomb. That death has no power over us.
After 40 days of preparing for the joy of Easter, the Church now gives us 50 days to try and comprehend this truth and what it means for us. First an octave to simply belt out long Alleluias and celebrate Easter over and over until it sinks in, then 6 weeks of letting the light of this candle shine into every dark nook and cranny of our lives. We are to remind ourselves that resurrection, as our Constitutions say, is a daily event.
It is this light that gives power to our Holy Cross motto: Ave Crux, Spes Unica. Without the resurrection the cross has no victory, only shame; and our crosses have no hope. In light of the Resurrection, however, Ave Crux Spes Unica becomes a statement of truth and a promise: that while Christ’s resurrection from the dead does not remove the suffering and pain of our lives, of our world… it means that such things do not have the last word… that all sorrow will be turned into joy. Ave Crux Spes Unica means that Love wins. Always.
Our greatest witness to a world filled with darkness and pain is the sublime confidence and hope that comes with knowing how it will all turn out. The light of this candle, the light of Easter faith, must shine through us. Every Sunday vespers, every Lucernarium, we share the light of this candle – a visible sign and reminder of what we are: witnesses to the truth of the resurrection. We are to be the beacons guiding one another home: Per Crucem ad Lucem –through the cross to the light.
To witness to something we have to see it – experience it. And that is why we are given these 50 days –a week of weeks - to better see and understand how the light of Christ’s love dispels the darkness in our own lives – how the light of the resurrection illumines our world. We know now that all that is sad will come untrue. We know now that every act of love, mercy, goodness has eternal significance. It is our Easter faith that allows us to see this – to see the light when others see only darkness.
Christ is risen, to die no more. Where He has gone, we will follow, for we belong to Him. Let us allow the truth of Easter to touch our hearts and become part of us during these next fifty days, and for all eternity.
Fr. Peter Jarret, C.S.C., is the Superior of Moreau Seminary. Prior to this assignment, he had served four years as the Superior of the Holy Cross community at the University of Notre Dame. Fr. Peter Jarret, C.S.C. was ordained April 25, 1992.