‘Christ is here! He is alive! He is Risen!’

The bishop celebrates the Easter Vigil

On March 30, Bishop Raica celebrated the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of St. Paul. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My sisters and brothers, with the whole Church we proclaim: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”


I am grateful for the presence of Bishop Baker and happy to join Father Bryan, along with those following this solemn celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection here at the Cathedral of St. Paul in downtown Birmingham on livestream services! On behalf of all of us: “Happy Easter!”


Every year, I am so moved by our Easter Vigil rites. Everything is telescoped into what is called the “mother of all vigils.” We are moved by the lighting of the Easter fire. Our lit candles serve as a reminder that we are the “light of Christ.” This light came to dispel the darkness of the night by spreading its radiant light far and wide. It was not merely at the time of our Lord that they were trying to find a way to escape the darkness of slavery and sin. It is in our time today as well that darkness around us continues to threaten the bright light of Christ. Saints proclaim this light by their lives. Sometimes it is bright like a lighthouse - crystal clear! Other times, it’s more like a 40-watt bulb – not much. When it is truly dark at night, even a 40-watt bulb can seem overpowering.

This year, I’d like to pick up on and walk through some themes we heard proclaimed in the Easter proclamation which we heard sung around the Easter Candle, representing the Risen Christ in our midst. 

First of all, it recounts the level of rejoicing in Heaven by the angels and saints begging them to shower this world with the glad tidings of rejoicing over the witnessing of this great event – Christ raised from the dead – and allowing the glory of the Risen Christ to reach all the corners of the earth. The event is so glorious and so powerful that we ask even this building to “shake with joy” – and sometimes that happens when all the stops are pulled on the organ, but also when all the voices of the people are singing.

Then, it touches on the foundations of our salvation as a sort of overture laying out the themes we will hear in a symphonic way raised by readings how God led Israel’s children from slavery through the Red Sea to freedom. It recounts how Christian believers are set apart from the world and are being led by grace to join the saints in Heaven.

Then it reminds us of the power of Christ Who broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious, vanquishing the vestiges of death’s power of us. At least the brakes were tapped, for life regains its place and is older than death. Live preceded death and will outlive death.

All this gives our lives meaning and purpose: “Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.” It exemplifies God’s care for each of us and His love that is beyond all telling. Through His resurrection, He gave us a way out of our dark night and hopelessness.

Then it goes on to describe, almost in an ironic fashion, how necessary Adam’s sin was. It is described ironically as a “happy fault” that merited a great and glorious Redeemer.

Indeed, tonight is blessed for all because it is the night that restores us to God’s graces by driving out hatred, fostering concord, and bringing down earthly power.

This Easter candle, a symbol of the Risen Christ, that will grace our sanctuary through Pentecost and at every Christian funeral, is the further reminder that Christ is Risen and among us. It is a light that mingles with the lights of Heaven. May its flame still burn brightly and be found by our Morning Star, Christ Himself, who has conquered sin and darkness and vanquished death itself.

Tonight, I also welcome those who will be baptized and those who will be receiving confirmation. It is a blessed evening for the Church around the world – so many hear God’s call to make one of the most important decisions of their lives. It is not without its anxiety. For those who do, witness the power of Christ to us. They witness what it means to be a person of hope and a person with a future. Sometimes it is said that every saint has a past. Like you, many had to make the tough choices to answer God’s call to be a fervent disciple of Jesus. It is also said that every sinner has a future. That is to say, one doesn’t have to remain stuck in the past, unsatisfied or unsettled. It’s like knowing the goal but not knowing the route to get there. Indeed, there are so many things commanding our attention and wanting us to devote all our energies to something that is less than infinite that we never seem to arrive.

Christ offers us everything, entering into the tomb with Christ through the waters of baptism. With Christ we will rise to become a completely new person. Confirmation will strengthen this journey for you to live the Christian life with boldness. New gifts, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are useful tools in our quiver and available to help us with the decision we’ve made. Then, the reception of Holy Communion, which many of us take for granted, is something so very special. It is Jesus Who comes to us assuring us that “whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will live forever!” What an astonishing claim! That prospect for a disciple sets our eyes on our goal that seems to be beyond our sight. Slowly, we begin to allow Christ in us to transform us from the inside out. And, by doing so, we Christians are oftentimes leaven in society making a difference at home, in school, at work, and in the other choices we make along the way.  Afterall, as Christians, we live differently. We may dress like everyone else, observe the customs of life like everyone else, but our true home is in Heaven. We live like migrants and pilgrims journeying through life here with our eyes set on what awaits us. In a word, welcome to our faith community!

My friends, indeed, tonight’s celebration is a splendid annual reminder that Christ, our light, will prevail over and against everything that seeks to pull us away from goodness, truth, freedom, and beauty. It is why we have the reminder of Christ’s presence in the Easter candle and the soft warm glow of that candle that burns near the tabernacle (or will be shortly!).  Christ is here! He is alive! He is Risen! He is our hope! And as Christians, who belong to Him, He is our life.

For truly, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!” May God bless you all!