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Converted ever anew

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The Lord brought forth His people with joy, alleluia:
and His chosen ones with gladness, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Give glory to the Lord, and call upon His name:
declare His deeds among the gentiles (Ps 104:43, 1).

One Who Comes to Meet Us

Some of you may be wondering why I chose, during this Octave of Pascha, to preach each day on the Introit of the Mass. The simple answer is this: someone suggested that I meditate and write on the Introit texts. And so I did. But there is another reason. Listen to what Father Maurice Zundel says:

The Introit greets us at the entrance of the Mass. It is like a triumphal arch at the head of a Roman road, a porch through which we approach the Mystery, a hand outstretched to a crying child, a beloved companion in the sorrow of exile. The Liturgy is not a formula. It is One who comes to meet us." (The Splendour of the Liturgy)

Toward the Heavenly Sanctuary

The Church gives us eight Introits for the glorious Paschal Octave: one for each day. Each one is a mystic portal opening onto a particular facet of the Mystery and pointing us toward the heavenly sanctuary where, beyond the veil, Christ the Priest stands in glory before the Father.

Get On With It

Today's Introit is but a single verse from Psalm 104. "The Lord brought forth His people with joy, alleluia: and His chosen ones with gladness, alleluia, alleluia" (Ps 104:43). The psalm refers to the Exodus. This verse, chosen by the Church for us today, is about getting out of Egypt.

Into Life

Easter, or Pascha as the Church calls it in her official liturgical books, is about moving out and moving on. Out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Out of darkness into light. Out of sin into holiness. Out of decrepitude into vigor. Out of a pitiful self-absorption into fascination with the beauty of holiness that shines on the Face of Christ. Out of death into life.

The Illusion of Coziness

It is a strange thing that, when it comes to getting on with it spiritually, some of us drag our feet. There is something inside us that remains attached to that old life of bondage under Pharaoh in Egypt. We reminisce about the "bad old days" and our imagination twists them into the "good old days" that they never were. There is nothing worthy of nostalgia about living in sin, under sin, or with sin. One of the devil's ploys is to make us feel comfortable in our sins. He likes nothing better than to appeal to our innate desire for feeling cozy, and he creates the illusion of coziness by using our sins. In this way, he suggests that we really need not move forward, that things are fine just as they are, and that those think otherwise are either fanatics or idealists.

Today's Introit says that the Lord brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen ones with gladness. Joy because a new life was opening before them. Gladness because God had taken care of their enemies -- a symbol of the old sins that pursue us -- by sending them headlong into the churning waters of the Red Sea. Joy, because "the strife was o'er, the battle won." Gladness because, as the Exultet puts it, we have been "restored to grace . . . and separated from the vices of the world and the darkness of sinners."

Resistance

What would prevent you from experiencing this joy and gladness? A secret attachment to sin. A hankering after things as the Old Self would have them be. A resistance to the costly change of heart that is the price of new life.

All my trust is in Him

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Icon by the hand of Oleh Skoropadsky. See:http://www.intoeternal.com/IconGallery/IconGallery.html

The Day Which the Lord Hath Made

We have arrived at the sixth day of the One Day that is Pascha, "the day which the Lord hath made" (Ps 117:24). We are also at the sixth in a series of eight Introits. Each of these Introits expresses and, at the same time, impresses on the soul, a particular aspect of the Pasch of the Lord made present and communicated to us in the sacraments. In today's Introit the Church sings,

The Lord led forth his people in hope, alleluia:
and the sea overwhelmed their enemies,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia" (Ps 77:53).

What the Lord Did

The wonders of the Exodus fulfilled in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord, and renewed for us in the sacraments, are God's doing, not ours. Recall the very last line of Psalm 21, the mysterious prophecy of the Passion and Resurrection intoned by Jesus from the Cross: "Generations to come shall speak of the Lord, and declare his righteousness to a people yet to be born: This is what the Lord did" (Ps 21:31) -- Haec fecit Dominus.


Brought Out in Hope

Whereas the Hebrew Psalter reads, "He brought them out safely" (Ps 77:53), the Septuagint and the Vulgate, the Psalter used by the Church, has for today's Introit, "He brought them out in hope." Saint Albert the Great says that, "hope is the chariot whereon God brings His elect to Himself." Nothing carries the soul forward as much as the exercise of the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope is not about hoping for this or that thing. It is not about saying, "I hope for good weather tomorrow," or "I hope that I have enough milk for tea this afternoon."

Hoping in God

We call hope a theological virtue, because its object is God alone. Hope, like faith and charity, unites the soul directly to God. It is a way of cleaving to God, of resting in Him, of cutting through every contingency and every change to respond to the words of Jesus in Saint John's Gospel: "Do not let your hearts be distressed; as you trust in God, trust in me" (Jn 14:1).

Leave Thyself in God's Hands

To my mind, one of the most beautiful expressions of the virtue of hope is Psalm 61:2-3, 6-7: "No rest has my soul but in God's hands; to Him I look for deliverance. I have no other stronghold, no other deliverer but Him; safe in His protection, I fear no deadly fall. . . . Yet even now, my soul, leave thyself in God's hands; all my trust is in Him. He is my stronghold and my deliverer, my protector, that makes me stand unmoved."

Waiting in Hope

Pope Benedict XVI entitled his second Encyclical, "Spe Salvi." He took his inspiration from Romans 8:24-25, where Saint Paul says, "Our salvation is founded upon the hope of something. Hope would not be hope at all if its object were in view; how could a man still hope for something which he sees? And if we are hoping for something still unseen, then we need endurance to wait for it."

Eucharistic Adoration

Eucharistic adoration is an exercise in the theological virtue of hope. With the Most Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar before us we are in the presence of the Lamb whose splendour illumines the heavenly Jerusalem. We are face to face with Him before whom the Angels ceaselessly adore, singing "Holy, Holy, Holy." We are invisibly, but really, permeated through and through, with the light that ever shines from the Face of Jesus. We are close, very close, to His Open Heart, from which gushes an inexhaustible torrent of Blood and of Water to purify, to sanctify, and to vivify our souls. How do we lay hold of these hidden mysteries? By claiming them in hope. Hope adores the God who never disappoints those who cast themselves upon His mercy.

Jesus, I Trust in Thee

Saint Faustina summed it up in the simple prayer given her by Jesus Himself: Jezu ufam tobie, Jesus, I trust in thee. "I trust in thee." "I trust in thee for what? For Thyself, Lord, for Thyself and none other, and for all that Thou willest to do in me and through me for the glory of Thy Father."

Adoration: the Angelic Life

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They praised Thy victorious hand, O Lord,
with one accord, alleluia:
for wisdom opened the mouth of the dumb,
and made the tongues of infants vocal with praise,
alleluia, alleluia (Wis 10:21-22).

Praise of Wisdom

Today's Introit, the fifth of eight given us by the Church during this week of glory, is drawn from the 10th chapter of the book of Wisdom. The passage that is sung in the Introit is best understood by placing it in its context: a praise of the wonders wrought by Holy Wisdom during the Exodus.

She . . . led them out on their miraculous journey, affording them shelter by day and starry radiance by night. She made a passage for them through the Red Sea, brought them safely through those leagues of water, and churned up the bodies of their drowned enemy from those unfathomed depths. So, enriched by the spoils of the godless, they extolled, O Lord, thy holy name, proclaimed with one voice thy sovereign power; Wisdom opened the dumb mouths, and made the lips of infants vocal with praise (Wis 10:17-21).

The Mysteries of Initiation

Who is Holy Wisdom? As we know from the Great O Antiphon of December 17th, Wisdom, Sapientia, designates none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of the Father. The Church confesses that Christ led out the catechumens on their miraculous journey into the font of Holy Baptism, and out of the font to the altar of His Sacrifice. The neophytes are characterized, above all, by the praise of Christ that comes to flower on their lips in the celebration of the Eucharist.

The Gift of Praise

Divine grace confers upon the soul the gift of praise. Before Baptism, we are all dumb, that is, incapable of offering to God what the Letter to the Hebrews calls "a continual sacrifice of praise to God, the tribute of lips that give thanks to his name" (Heb 13:15).

Little Children

The grace of Christ makes the lips of infants vocal with praise. Who are these infants? Our Lord himself reveals their identity. "At that time, Jesus was filled with gladness by the Holy Spirit, and said, O Father who art Lord of heaven and earth, I give thee praise that thou hast hidden all this from the wise and the prudent, and revealed it to little children. Be it so, Lord, since this finds favour in thy sight" (Lk 10:21).

A Grave Spiritual Sickness

A soul that finds it tedious to lift her voice to God in praise, a soul that has forgotten the language of thanksgiving, of blessing, of adoration, is suffering from the gravest spiritual sickness: self-absorption. What is the remedy for self-absorption? The recovery of grateful awe in the presence of God. The rediscovery of the infinite beauty of God, of the immensity of His Mercy, of the splendour of His Truth. If we confess our sins, beginning with the pernicious sin of self-absorption, the mercy of God will render us capable of confessing Him, that is, of praising Him in awestruck awareness of His majesty.

The Angels

A soul preoccupied with herself cannot move beyond herself into the praise taught us by the Angels. The Angels have no eyes for themselves. They have eyes only for God. Seeing God as He is, they ceaselessly cry out, "Holy, Holy Holy!" What Pope Benedict XVI said in September 2007 at the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria is perhaps what we most need to hear in those moments when, being entrapped within our limitations, we cannot move beyond them to praise. Listen to the Holy Father:

In the life of monks . . . prayer takes on a particular importance: it is the heart of their calling. Their vocation is to be men of prayer. In the patristic period the monastic life was likened to the life of the angels. It was considered the essential mark of the angels that they are adorers. Their very life is adoration. This should hold true also for monks. Monks pray first and foremost not for any specific intention, but simply because God is worthy of being praised. Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus! - Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy is eternal!": so we are urged by a number of Psalms (e.g. Ps 106:1). Such prayer for its own sake, intended as pure divine service, is rightly called officium. It is "service" par excellence, the "sacred service" of monks. It is offered to the triune God who, above all else, is worthy "to receive glory, honour and power" (Rev 4:11), because he wondrously created the world and even more wondrously renewed it.

Pray today that the Adorable Body and Precious Blood of Christ may heal us of the paralysis of self-absorption, and sanctify our tongues for the praise of Him who waits for us, at every moment, to "sing to Him a new song" (Ps 98:1).

Venite, benedicti Patris mei

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The Voice of Christ

Come, you blessed of my Father,
receive the kingdom, alleluia
prepared for you
since the foundation of the world,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia (cf. Mt 25:34).

In today's Introit, the fourth one of the ongoing Paschal solemnity, we hear the voice of none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Today's text is extraordinary in that it is one of the very few Introits drawn from the Gospels. It comes from Chapter 25 of Saint Matthew. The context is that of the Last Judgment. The words are those of Christ the King, of the Son of Man coming in His glory, and all the angels with him. He is seated upon the throne of His glory. All the nations are gathered in His presence.

Come to Me

How are we to understand this Introit today? Our Lord is addressing the newly-baptized. His first word to them is, "Come." Venite, benedicti Patris mei. Where else do we hear this same word, Venite, in the mouth of Jesus? In Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest." I see Our Lord pronouncing this word with His arms spread wide in a gesture of welcome. The hands nailed to the wood of the Cross shine with His glorious wounds. His Holy Face is radiant. A torrent of light flows from His Open Side. When He says, "Come," who can resist His invitation?
Every Spiritual Blessing

Our Lord calls the newly-baptized benedicti Patris mei, blessed of my Father. Is not this what Saint Paul develops in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians? "Blessed be that God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us, in Christ, with every spiritual blessing, higher than heaven itself" (Eph 1:3). There is no greater blessing than incorporation into the Body of Christ that is the Church. The children of the Church, the Bride of Christ, are nourished from the altar of His Sacrifice with the mysteries of His Body and Blood. It is in the Eucharist that we are blessed, here and now, with every spiritual blessing, higher than heaven itself.

Sacrament of the Kingdom

To receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion is to receive "the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world" (Mt 25:34). The Most Holy Eucharist is a foretaste of heaven. It is already the "Wedding Banquet of the Lamb" (Ap 19:9). The Orthodox theologian, Father Alexander Schmemann, calls the Eucharist, "the ascent of the Church to the heavenly altar." The kingdom prepared for us since the foundation of the world is offered to us sacramentally in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is the Church assumed into heaven, and heaven filling the Church.

Since the Foundation of the World

The little phrase, "prepared for you since the foundation of the world" (Mt 25:34) tells us that creation itself, from the very beginning, was ordered to the Eucharist. Every created thing has a Eucharistic finality; every created thing is ordered to the priesthood of Christ. The Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist recapitulates the purpose of God, the design of His Love, in creating man and in redeeming him. Only the Mass makes sense of history. Only the Mass gives meaning to all things.

The Canticle of the Three Young Men

This is why the Church enjoins the priest to say daily, as part of his thanksgiving after Mass, the Canticle of the Three Young Men, the Benedicite. Blessed Abbot Marmion remained faithful to this all his life. In Christ, the Life of the Soul, he writes, "The Church, the Bride of Christ, who knows better than anyone the secrets of her Divine Bridegroom, makes the priest sing in the sanctuary of his soul where the Word dwells, the inward canticle of thanksgiving. The soul leads all creation to the feet of its God and its Lord, that He may receive homage from every creature."

The Bread of Angels

The Eucharistic motif of today's Introit becomes explicit in the Offertory Antiphon. As the priest goes to the altar today, the Church sings, "The Lord opened the doors of heaven and rained manna on them for food; he gave them the bread of heaven, man ate the bread of angels, alleluia" (Ps 77:23-25). The priest goes to the altar precisely for this: that the Lord might open before him, for the sake of all those who stand behind him, the doors of heaven. The true Manna, the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of Angels, descends from heaven to become the food of mortal wayfarers.

Holy Pascha: Mass of the Day

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Father Prior Singing the Gospel


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Canon of the Mass

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The New Fire


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Father Prior preaching, "Christ is risen!"


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The Oratory in Paschal Array


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The Altar


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The Oratory at the Paschal Vigil

Christ is risen!

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THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD
THE PASCHAL VIGIL OF THE HOLY NIGHT


April 23, 2011
Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen!

David sings the mystery
and the Church takes up his song!
This is the night foretold in prophecy:
"And the night shall be enlightened as the day;
and the night is my light and my delight" (Ps 138:12),
for Christ is risen!

Tonight the light of His Face is signed upon us,
for Christ is risen!
Tonight the veil is lifted from the Countenance of Love,
for Christ is risen!

Blessed the veil that covered His beauty in death!
Blessed the veil that Simon Peter saw,
"not lying with the linen cloths
but rolled up in a place by itself" (Jn 20:7),
for Christ is risen!

1. In the beginning the heavens were splayed across the void
and the fabric of creation was woven by His hands:
a veil translucent upon the face of the earth,
finely woven that through it we might glimpse His glory!
Christ is risen!

In the beginning He made man in His image, in His likeness.
From the dust Adam emerged, facing the splendour of His glory:
the creature reflecting as in a mirror
the Uncreated Beauty from which all beauty springs.

Great was Adam's grief,
terrible the laments of Eve,
when before their darkened eyes
descended the veil opaque and heavy,
the veil that they, by their sin, had pulled down hard and fast
like a window shade in time of war!
But now the long blackout of history is ended,
for Christ is risen!

"Look, my darling Eve," says ancient Adam
in a creaking voice that has forgotten how to sing,
"is that the light of God I see?"
Behold, the peace of paradise,
for Christ is risen!
Shredded are the shades of night!
Sprung from their hinges the gates of the netherworld!
Unchained the chains, unbolted the bolts!
Christ is risen!

Eve, all bent earthward, stooped with the weight of the ages,
lifts her old gray head as if to examine the fruit on a branch,
then, leaning on her walking stick older than time
-- Adam had cut it for her from The Tree --
straightens her crooked back,
and opens her mouth to say:
Christ is risen!

He enters, the Warrior returned from battle,
the King covered with victory,
the Bridegroom "all radiant and ruddy,
distinguished among ten thousand" (Ct 5:10),
for Christ is risen!

2. Behold, the Ram caught in a thicket of thorns!
Behold, the gentle Lamb bound and laid upon the wood!
Behold, the Victim for the Altar!
Behold, the Offering in Love's Undying Flame consumed!
Christ is risen!

Isaac, wide-eyed, looking on,
remembers well the day he was bound fast
and laid upon the altar
by his father's trembling and tender hand.
He remembers the flash of the blade above his head
and, out of heaven, the voice:
"Abraham! Abraham! You have not withheld your son,
your only-begotten son from me!" (cf. Gen 22: 11-12).
"Oh, Father, now I see!
It is as you said:
'God Himself will provide the Lamb, my son,'
for Christ is risen!"

3. Moses, wakened from his sleep,
shuffles out to see the sight,
brooding, grumbling as he goes.
"After forty years of leading them,
the stiff-necked, fickle, dull-witted lot,
could they not at least let a man retired take his rest!
And why that ringing of bells and tambourines?
Would not a slap of the clapper do?"
Not for a minute, my Lord Moses,
for Christ is risen!"

"Could they not have called on Joshua
to see whatever this marvel may be?
I, after all, have seen it all:
the plagues and the parting of the sea,
the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire,
the rush of the waters, the fright of the steeds,
chariots sinking in the mud and Egyptians dead upon the shore!"
(He does not yet know that -- Christ is risen!)

Then he sees Him whom once he knew,
the Friend with whom he spoke face to face (cf. Ex 33:11),
the Glory whose trail of splendour
he spied from the cleft of the rock (cf. Ex 33:22),
the Beloved Son who woke him briefly not so long ago
to converse with Him and with Elijah
of another exodus, His! (cf. Lk 28:31).
Christ is risen!

Behold Him now, more beautiful than on the heights of Thabor!
Then, "His face shone like the sun,
and his garments became white as light" (Mt 17:2),
but now, there are no words to describe him,
for Christ is risen!

4. He comes, the Lover back from combat,
with shining shards of ruby brightness
slashing through his hands and feet!
"His head is the finest gold;
his locks are wavy,
black as a raven" (Ct 5:11),
and across his forehead
a ring of cut diamonds, an incision of stars!
Christ is risen!

"Your Maker is your Husband,
the Lord of Hosts is His Name!"
Christ is risen!
"Fear not, for you will not be ashamed" (Is 54:4),
for Christ is risen!

"'I hid my Face from you' (Is 54:8), it is true,
shroud and veil covered me,
a stone, the seal upon my tomb,
but now my Face unveiled would be your feast,
your tabernacle, your paradise.
Christ is risen!

There is but a lattice of hope between us,
or the membrane of a living faith stretched taut
and wholly penetrable to love.
Christ is risen!

"His eyes are like doves
beside springs of water,
bathed in milk, fitly set.
His cheeks are like beds of spices,
yielding fragrance.
His lips are lilies,
distilling liquid myrrh" (Ct 5:12-13),
for Christ is risen!

5. If you are parched, come to the waters!
If you have no money, come all the same!
Tonight is the festival of the destitute,
the homecoming of the wanderer,
the hospitality of the heavens thrown open to the earth!
For Christ is risen!

Tonight there is water in abundance,
for feet and hands and face and head!
A cascade of jewels for the Bride of Christ,
Splashing wetness on the pavement,
bringing a thrill to every thirsting heart,
for Christ is risen!

Tonight, for our lips, there is something sweeter than honey!
Tonight there is a Chalice brimming with the fruit of the vine!
Tonight there is Bread from heaven to strengthen every heart,
supersubstantial, and having within it all delight,
for Christ is risen!

"Ah," I hear you say, "my fasting was not all it could have been,
and, often, from abstinence I abstained!
My penitence was paltry,
and my prayer-time bound to the miserly measure of the clock!
In giving alms I was stiff-necked and stingy,
and when I tried to bend my mind to the Scriptures
it was my feeble head that bent in sleep!
This feast, I fear, is not for me!"
Nonsense! For Christ is risen!

Tonight all is given away:
pardon for sinners,
healing for the sick,
laughter for weepers,
a song for the sullen,
and for those who have nothing -- everything!
Christ is risen!

Tonight no one gets what he deserves!
Each one gets what he has not earned:
"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor 2:9),
for Christ is risen!

6. Tonight the stars shine in their watches and are glad (Bar 3:34),
sparks of fire hurled into the murky vastness,
an incandescent train for the King of Glory!
Christ is risen!

Faithful, each remains at her post,
until having spent all her blaze for love,
she falls into the secret place prepared for her,
for Christ is risen!

Tonight, for the foolish there is wisdom!
Tonight, for the weak there is strength!
Tonight, for the simple there is understanding!
Christ is risen!

Tonight, for the uncertain there is discernment!
Tonight, for the anxious there is length of days and life!
Tonight, for the blind there is light!
Tonight, for the battle-scarred and weary there is peace,
for Christ is risen!

7. Tonight, there is a bath to wash away every defilement!
Tonight, there is a cleansing from every uncleanness!
Tonight, every idol comes crashing down!
Tonight, there is a mystical infusion of purity in our inmost parts,
for Christ is risen!

This is the night of the new heart.
This is the night of the new spirit.
This is the night of hearts of stone
exchanged for hearts of flesh (cf. Ez 36:26),
for Christ is risen!

Tonight the panting deer arrives at flowing streams!
Tonight she who puts no limits on her desire
is held fast in the embrace of a Love without limits!
Christ is risen!

Tonight he who has followed his heart's whispering,
-- "Seek His Face" --
feasts, like Simon, on the Face of His Lord,
for Christ is risen!

8. After Moses, after David and the Prophets,
the Apostle draws a breath and speaks:
"Consider yourselves," he said, "dead to sin" (Rom 6:11).
"Dead?" you say, fearful and astonished.
"Dead," he says. "No other way.
-- And alive to God in Christ Jesus" (cf. Rom 6:11).
Christ is risen!

Die then, tonight, die dead to all that is old,
die dead to all that is decayed,
die dead to all that will not rise to join the dance,
for Christ is risen!

9. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
ran before us to the tomb!
The earth shook and shifted, jumped and heaved!
"What cosmic dance is this?" they asked,
as over rocks and rills they sped,
while beneath their feet the road to His tomb
cracked like the shells of Easter eggs!
Christ is risen!

And then they saw it all:
the gracious Angel seated on the stone,
dazzling brightness,
blinding whiteness,
guards, first shaking like leaves in the breeze,
and then stiff as dead men for fear!

"Do not be afraid;
for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here, for he has risen as he said.
Come see the place where he lay" (Mt 28:6).
Christ is risen!

To them it was announced, yes,
but the Mother . . . the Mother already knew!
She, the first in this night as in the night of Bethlehem,
to behold the Human Face of God!
Christ is risen!

Christ is risen that we, going to the altar in this most holy night,
might see His Face shining beneath the sacramental veils!
Christ is risen that we, like so many mirrors lifted high to catch the light,
might dispel the darkness within and without!
Christ is risen that hope may triumph in every heart, in every place!

Christ is risen to go before us:
our Brother to the Father,
our Priest to the Altar.
our Saviour to the world!

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen!

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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