Photo: L’Arche community celebrating the Easter Vigil at Trosly-Breuil, April 11, 2019
Four years ago, I was attending the Easter vigil with the L’Arche community at Trosly-Breuil, France. It was the culmination of a Holy Week retreat I’d been attending there. While memories of the retreat will probably always be somewhat tinged now with sorrow over Jean Vanier’s legacy, there remain so many uplifting, edifying, and good memories of that retreat and this is one of them:
At 8:00 p.m. on Holy Saturday, we gathered for the Easter Vigil. Under the stars and surrounding the large fire, we stood together – the Church. I recalled being at St. Peter’s Basilica the previous Easter for the vigil. Two years before that, I’d attended the vigil at St. Peter’s in Toronto. Three years before, I’d attended Easter vigil at St. Michael’s in my hometown. And a couple years before that, in Mexico, where the priests cried jubilantly, “Esta es la noche!”
I marvelled at the universality of the Church and the continuity of these experiences, because of the Gospel. I rejoiced in the present experience, too. Everyone began to receive their candles as we listened to the crackling fire and watched the flames grow.
The celebrant, Bishop Gerard, began the liturgy blessing the fire:
O God, who through your Son
bestowed upon the faithful the fire of your glory,
sanctify + this new fire, we pray,
and grant that,
by these paschal celebrations,
we may be so inflamed with heavenly desires,
that with minds made pure
we may attain festivities of unending splendor.
Through Christ our Lord.
The light began to be passed on to each person as we entered the church bearing our candles. Soon after, it was time for the readings. Bishop Gerard prefaced the first reading saying, “Let us listen to this reading from the Book of Genesis and be reminded of its meaning, that its purpose is to remind us that God created everyone and that He entrusts creation to us.”
Everyone then sat down. Beside the woman proclaiming the reading, there stood another woman who signed it for the hearing impaired.
A couple of rows in front of me, there was a little boy who was about four years old. He looked attentive and curious. I watched him listening. As the woman read, “So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God, He created them…”, I saw the little boy looking at a severely disabled woman who appeared a bit contorted in her wheelchair. She had a desperate and anguished look. The boy’s eyes remained fixed on this woman until the words were spoken, “And it was so. God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
A profound anthropological education, I thought. Especially for all the children who are receiving the faith and growing up in this community of persons with disabilities and those who devote themselves to caring for them.
I’d been struck by the boy’s attentiveness to the reading; even as a child, he was studying the Word made flesh. His look of wonder and awe was very moving.
Have a blessed Holy Saturday and a joyous Easter Sunday, my friends.