20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb… 6Then Simon Peter … went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple … also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 1-18)
The Easter Prayer Vigil is conducted on Saturday evening within darkness, recalling Jesus’ frightened disciples gathered in despair and hidden within a dark room.
However, the Easter Prayer Vigil begins with the blessing and lighting of the (large) paschal candle which symbolizes Jesus’ journey from death into life. This paschal candle will be lit throughout the Easter season and on Sundays with baptisms. The reason is that baptism is our death to sin and the old self, in order to be raised into new life with Christ.
The Easter Prayer Vigil continues with a lengthy recounting of our history of salvation through the Hebrew Bible (and Old Testament), beginning with Genesis 1:1 and its account of creation. It demonstrates a history of God delivering God’s people and establishing covenants (or contracts) with us, which we always breach.
The Easter Prayer Vigil readings conclude with John’s account of the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ and the returning of the light, including the altar candles.
This Resurrection account emphasizes the grieving and weeping, the despair and anguish of Mary Magdalene who arrived at the tomb in the wee morning hours before sunrise. She arrived to an empty tomb and amidst her distress unexpectedly comes face-to-face with the Risen Christ, her intimate friend and rabbi (teacher). Although Mary is told to ‘not hold onto’ him, she is sent ahead to proclaim the Good News of the Resurrection to the disciples, who are still frightened, gathered in despair, and hidden within a dark room.
Thus, Mary is sent to be a light that dispels the darkness.
Similarly, we are called to be the light that dispels the darkness.
May we be the light of the Risen Christ
that dispels fear, despair, and all sorts of darkness.