WASHINGTON (OSV News) — A joyful Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington began that April 8 evening with Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory lighting the paschal candle from a burning brazier outside the entranceway.
“May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds,” the cardinal prayed.
Then the paschal candle was brought into the darkened cathedral in a procession, and light from its flame was spread one-by-one to flickering candles held by hundreds of people gathered there for the vigil, as a deacon sang, “The light of Christ,” and people sang in response, “Thanks be to God.”
The new life of the risen Jesus and the light he brings to people’s lives and to the world was highlighted in prayers in the Mass and could be seen in the 14 people, including adults and children, who became full members of the Catholic Church during the nearly three-hour Mass as they received Sacraments of Initiation including baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.
That night at Easter Vigils in parishes across the Archdiocese of Washington, 1,000 people became full members of the Catholic Church, receiving or completing those sacraments, according to the Catholic Standard, the archdiocese’s newspaper.
Cardinal Gregory in his homily reflected on that evening’s Gospel account from Matthew 28:1-10, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary found Jesus’s tomb empty on the third day after his crucifixion, and an angel told them not to be afraid, because Jesus had risen and had gone ahead to Galilee. As the two women ran to tell the disciples the good news, they encountered the risen Christ.
The cardinal noted that the Gospel accounts show how the risen Christ continually sought out his disciples and blessed them and gave them strength by his presence.
“But where is he now to be found?” Washington’s archbishop asked, noting that today “our hearts long to experience again the exact same Lord that brought such radiance and hope to that first Easter morning.”
Cardinal Gregory added that Jesus is present today “within the hearts of those who believe in him, in the teachings of his church and by the sacramental life that we now share.”
He said, “Those born into the life of the church this Easter are wonderful examples of the presence of Christ in his church.”
The cardinal said Christ can also be found on Easter Sunday when Christians gather as members of their families of faith in churches throughout the world. “Christ is always to be found in the midst of his people,” he said.
And speaking in Spanish during his homily, Cardinal Gregory said that as families gather for special Easter meals together, “there you will find Christ in the warmth of your homes and in the eyes and smiles of your loved ones.”
Cardinal Gregory said Jesus can also be found “among the poor, the hungry, the immigrant, the lonely, the aged, the oppressed and the sorrowful.”
Concluding his homily, the cardinal emphasized, “Easter is the feast that encourages us not to look for him in a tomb or among the dead, but to remember that he always goes ahead of us — if we only dare to search for him.”