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Issue 3 number 6 April 2017
This Is the Night! The Revd Dr Charles Miller, Team Rector E The Editors
Andrew Colborne Alexandra Green Louise Heffernan Sheila Hills
Silvia Joinson David Pope
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very Easter Eve churches across the world ring out with the phrase ‘This is the night….’ The phrase comes from an ancient Christian song of celebra- tion, sung at the vigil service of Easter Eve. At this service a series of epi-
sodes from the Bible are read which trace the story of salvation from the creation of humankind to the resurrection of Jesus. The song, with its repeated phrase ‘this is the night’ recalls how, during the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Day, Jesus the Christ ‘vanquished hell, broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave’. It proclaims too how those who believe and trust in him ‘are freed from sin, restored to grace and holiness, and share the victory of Christ’.
Easter Eve, then, is the very centre of Christian celebration, and the dynamic heart of the spirit of believers. Part of its message is in words, of course; but equal- ly, its message is vis- ual. The lighting of the New Fire, out- doors at the start of the service, creates a memorable contrast
between darkness and light, two op- posed images in the experience of hu- mankind, and in Christians’ language about salvation: death and new life, sin and forgiveness. In the Vigil service the light pierces the darkness both out- side and inside the church.
And because of such words and symbols, and their message of rescue, healing and hope, ‘this is the night’ when Baptism takes place. For Baptism (or Christening as many English people still call it) is the event by which a person transitions from death to new life, from the burden of guilt to the joy of forgiveness. To be sure, that message is then ‘played out’ through all times, seasons and circumstances. But the night when the Church celebrates Jesus’ own Passover from death to life is the prin- cipal time for others to follow his Way, and to be baptized into a death like his, so that they might rise to newness of life and to a resurrection like his (see Romans 6.1-11).
Christians are therefore encouraged to take to heart that ‘this is the night’, and to do so by joining in the celebration of Easter Eve (April 15th) in our parish’s churches, so that they might wake up on Easter Day, when the light of day signals the full flood of the Light of Christ, the ‘day of splendour’, and in the joy of that awareness, return to church to give thanks to the risen Lord.
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