Though I have attended the Easter Vigil for years, I found this one to be particularly moving. This is because next Easter I will be ordained a Catholic priest. Throughout the drama of the Triduum, which reaches its climax at the Easter Vigil, I found myself thanking God for the gift of the priesthood. It is overwhelming to think that in less than one month He will bestow this unbelievable gift on me, an unworthy sinner. The priest has the privilege to witness Christ’s insatiable thirst for every single soul. In fact, the priest watches as the drama of salvation history unfolds in the lives of his people. In light of the Easter Candle, I share some thoughts on this incredible privilege.
After carving the Easter Candle, the priest, finally lighting the paschal candle, states “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” Then, the priest raises the lighted candle and leads his people into the dark church.
We can learn a lot about Jesus and his sacred priesthood from this gesture. For starters, it is clear that we all experience darkness. At times, this darkness can be overwhelming. Christ, as the light of the world, is the only one that can overcome this darkness. For this reason, we should thank Him for giving us priests to bring us from darkness into His marvelous light.
Notice that the celebration of the Easter Vigil asks only the priest to light the paschal candle. After lighting the paschal candle and leading them through the dark church, he then shares the light with the rest of the people. In other words, Jesus tasks the Catholic priest with dispensing his light to the world.
Only the Catholic priest can say the words that free us from sin, which is the source of our darkness. “I absolve you from your sins….The Lord has freed you from your sins, go in peace.” Only the priest can utter the words that make Jesus truly and substantially present, body, blood, soul, and divinity in every tabernacle throughout the world. In a phrase, only the priest brings the light of the world within our midst. Finally, only the priest can prepare a soul to meet God before he or she dies.
As the start of the Easter Vigil demonstrates, not to mention the experience of ancient Israel, coupled with our own experience, without Christ we are stuck in darkness. Without his priests, the ones He consecrated to spread his light to every single soul, we are stuck in the same darkness.For this reason, it is no coincidence that Saint Paul and Pope Benedict XVI loved to describe the priest as a minister of joy. For Benedict XVI, the priest exists to make us fit for friendship with God. From this friendship flows the light and the joy of the risen Christ. In this Easter season, guided by the light from the paschal candle, may we know that in every age and in every place, Jesus calls men to become ministers of joy. May the joy of the risen Christ inspire many men to embrace the grace of a priestly vocation. After all, they are the ones that Christ uses to “dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”
Peter grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts with his two sisters and three brothers. In his free time, He enjoy playing and watching sports. he also enjoys hiking, skiing, and reading. He first heard the call to the priesthood shortly after graduating college and was ordained a Transitional Deacon for the Archdiocese of Boston on June 4th. God willing, He was ordained a priest on May 20th.