Holy Pascha

The Vigil
Christ is risen!
Last night, as we kept the great and solemn vigil, “the mother of all vigils,”
the brightest Eucharist of the year,
the Word of God, again and again,
struck our ears, pierced our hearts,
came to flower in psalms and canticles on our lips.
A procession passed before our eyes!
Abraham and Isaac were there;
Moses, Aaron, and Miriam were there, with all the children of Israel;
Isaiah, Baruch, and Ezekiel were there;
Paul was there, Paul of the risen Christ, Paul of the dazzling Christ.
And so were we led to the pure, the undiluted sound of Pascha.
The entire vigil dissolved into “the one first note of joy
which nothing and no one can imitate,” the alleluia.
The Alleluia
Dame Aemiliana Löhr’s classic description of the Paschal Alleluia
remains the best of all:
“It rose with a slow movement;
it rose above the grave of Adam,
and it had the blood of Christ on it’s wings.”
The alleluia itself, for all its beauty, blossomed into something else.
It set the tone for Psalm 117, the paschal psalm par excellence,
the psalm that is, from beginning to end a cry of Eucharist:
“Confess unto the Lord for he is good:
unto ages unending is his mercy” (Ps 117:1).
Psalm 117
Today’s liturgy continues the psalm intoned last night.
(It’s almost as if we never went to bed.)
The twenty-fourth verse becomes our refrain:
“Haec dies quam fecit Dominus:
exsultemus, et laetemur in ea.”
“This is the day which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad therein” (Ps 117:24).
Psalm 117 is the last of the six psalms of praise known as the Hallel
sung in the liturgy of the Temple
at Passover, at Pentecost, and on the other high feasts.
In the Jewish ear, in the Jewish mouth,
Psalm 117 is a riot of jubilation;
it celebrates the triumph of the Messiah, the Anointed, the Christ.
The voice of the warrior-king makes itself heard above all others:
“I thank Thee,
(I eucharistify Thee)
that Thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the head of the corner.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps 117:21-23).
The Triumph of the Warrior-King
In the Christian ear, Psalm 117 is the voice of Jesus,
the warrior-king come back from the stupendous struggle with death,
come back from the sixth day battle fought with outstretched hands,
come back from the harrowing of Hades.
It is the sound of Eucharist.
This thing done by God,
the victory of His Christ,
makes a today unlike every other day,
a day forever to be remembered
We hear the Haec dies more intensely than we sing it,
and in it recognize, like Mary at the tomb,
the voice of our Christ, our “Victor Rex.”
A few moments ago, we sang the Haec dies
in response to Peter’s confession of the crucified and risen Jesus.
“They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree;
but God raised Him on the third day and made Him manifest;
not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as His witnesses,
who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead” (Ac 10:39-41).
Peter’s “third day” (Ac 10:39)
is “the day the Lord has made” (Ps 117:24);
the third day becomes the first day,
the day of the creation of the light (Gen 1:3).
It becomes the mysterious eighth day,
the beginning of the new creation
that has for light and for lamp the glory of God and the Lamb (Rev 21:22).
For us, this means,
that in our celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice today,
in our obedience to the commandment of the Lord,
“Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19),
we pass all together into the “Day of the Lord” (Rev 1:10).
The third day, the first day, and the eighth day
are mysteriously and simultaneously made present.
It is true: the then” of Christ has become our “now,”
and our “now:” passes over into His “then.”
“Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus:
quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius.”
“Confess unto the Lord for He is good:
unto ages unending is His mercy” (Ps 117:1).
To confess means to praise, to bless, to offer thanks.
The Eucharist is Christ’s great confession of the goodness of the Lord;
the Eucharist is our memorial confession of His mercy.
The Eucharist is the goodness of the Lord
given for all in the Divine Bread and in the Sacred Chalice.
The Eucharist is the taste of mercy in the mouth,
the sweetness of victory over death, leaving no bitterness,
satisfying, invigorating, making all things new (Rev 21:5).
Christ is risen!