The secret to changing the world—all is revealed in the Great Vigil of Easter

If you’re like me, there are lots of things about the world you’d like to see change. I’d like to live in a world that pays less attention to the latest pseudo-celebrity and more to the lives of the poor and marginalized. I’d like to live in a world in which free speech means all voices have an equal chance to be heard, not just those with the most money behind them. I’d like to live in a less violent world, in which the escalating proliferation of weapons can be reversed. The list, of course, goes on and on.

The Christian faith constantly holds forth a vision of a different world in its central sacrament, the Eucharist. When Christians gather to remember the Last Supper, they enact a vision of world in which neighbours actively practice reconciliation with one another, all share with one another what the Lord has blessed them with, and all are ultimately dependent on the forgiving grace of God. On Thursday evening, as Christians remembered the first time this meal was celebrated and heard afresh the commandment to love as we have been loved, we were saying, in effect, “This is the kind of world we want to belong to.”

You don’t need me to tell you that it takes a lot more than good intentions to bring that world about. That’s what Good Friday is about, that time when Christians say, “This is the kind of world we live in,” a world in which God can come to earth in grace and love and be rejected, despised, and scorned. When the love of God comes in contact with the ways of the world, the result is the cross.

But there is another message of Good Friday: somehow, I am complicit in all this. On Palm Sunday, the congregation sings—as the people of Jerusalem once did—”Hosannah to the Son of David.” On Good Friday, that same congregation continues in the role of the people of Jerusalem during the reading of the Passion, only this time they say, “Crucify him!” We hold back the world from attaining that vision held forth in the Eucharist.Various

And so we come to the Great Vigil of Easter, a service that begins in darkness on Saturday evening. It is the darkness that follows the death of Good Friday, the darkness of a world in which the Eucharistic vision of a transformed world no longer seems possible. And in this service, Christians express the very heart of their faith. We say, “Another world is possible—and we know how to get there.”

The key is in the act that is at the centre of the Vigil: baptism. In baptism, we die the death of Christ, dying to our selves, our brokenness, our ideologies that disfigure the world. And then we are raised to new life with Christ, free from our past and able to live lives shaped by the same grace, mercy, and truth that shaped Christ’s life. Renewed in baptism, we celebrate the Eucharist, proclaiming afresh, “This is the kind of world we want to belong to.” As baptized Christians, we make this affirmation with a new piece of knowledge: in order for the world to change, each one of us needs to change.

The liturgy of the church enacts a particular kind of understanding, a unique way of looking at the world. I’ve been a baptized Christian virtually my entire life and I’ve spent virtually my entire life learning in one way or another all the ways in which I still need to die to myself and be raised anew with Christ. The sacraments aren’t magic. Rather, they are signs of the grace with which, by faith, Christians keep moving towards a new world. But that’s why we need to keep coming back to our Christian communities, keep celebrating the sacraments, keep reminding ourselves of what is possible, keep reminding ourselves of how to get there, and keep inviting others to share in this transformed life. The Christian answer to the problems of the world is not a quick fix but the journey of a lifetime.

Baptism and Eucharist are intimately connected. As we celebrate the risen Christ, we see that connection, see how our world needs to change, and see how, as forgiven, redeemed, and transformed people, we can move towards that new world.

Christ is Risen. May we share in that risen life.

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