If you decide to attend this year’s Easter Vigil Mass at a Roman Catholic church, what should you expect to experience? At a minimum, you can expect a brief review of the history of the universe.
The vigil Mass begins in darkness. The church remains in darkness while scriptures composed prior to Christ’s entry into history, scriptures from the Old Testament, are read starting with the creation account from the Book of Genesis. Then, at the point where the readings move from the Old Testament into the New, the lights come on, reminding us that what began with the words “Let there be light” is not complete until the light of the world enters directly into history, in the form of Jesus Christ.
Be careful however not let the linearity of the symbolism deceive you; the entry of Christ into history is no ordinary event, depending solely on what comes before or impacting only what comes after. In the words of Catholic monk Thomas Merton, “the Mystery of Christ is the heart of all history and extends backwards and forwards to embrace all of time”. God deposits the great gift of Himself into the middle of history, and also removes the intervals of time between Christ’s life on earth and other events of His choosing, allowing humans across the millennia to share all at once in the Divine presence.
Now, when introduced as an element of Catholic theology, some people will find the idea of a power entering the universe from outside and bending the rules of time to be too fanciful to merit a second thought. But suppose a similar idea was presented in a different form, perhaps as a “new” idea behind a bestselling novel or a blockbuster movie? In that context, might not a fair number of people you know (and perhaps even yourself) find the concept of human beings connected by a force that actively reaches around the flow of time to bring them together to be at least intriguing, maybe even cool, and perhaps worth exploring further?
Of course no one novel or movie, nor any single medium, would be enough to fully explore what it means to move around and beyond time. Which brings us back to the Easter Mass at your local Catholic church.
The Easter Mass — indeed every Catholic Mass — is the nearby entrance to the connection across time that has been opened directly by God. The Mass does not merely provide an opportunity to think about the stuff flowing into the universe from an infinitely larger eternity beyond, but provides an opportunity to receive that outpouring directly. (That “stuff”, by the way, is what we Christians call love). And whether you have been conscientiously accepting His gifts for years, or are becoming aware of His power just now, you can be confident that God has invited you to join with others in the celebration He instituted to erase the gulfs of time — as well as every other gulf that divides the human race.
Published originally at GoLocalProv, March 27, 2016.