Kruiz edited
Easter Vigil
Thursday of Lent 5
6 April 2017
The church has traditionally kept a vigil on Easter Eve. In America, the Easter Vigil has long ago been eclipsed by Christmas Eve. This should not be. Easter is by far the greater feast of the church. It deserves the greater celebration including keeping the vigil of the feast on the eve. But why should we keep a vigil anyway?
 
Vigils are kept on remarkable nights by people everywhere. A wife awaiting a husband's return from a foreign field of battle will spend the night before his return in anxious prayer and eager anticipation. A child will remain on vigil at the bedside of a dying parent, so that their departure is not lonely or unremarked in the realm of the living. A parent will keep vigil at the bed of a feverish and restless child, asking God for health, while soothing the hot brow of the child with cold compresses. Such needs, though created purely by human hardship, demand that we keep watch. Our Lord also calls us to watch with Him but one little hour.
 
The Easter Vigil is not the suspenseful, frightened wait of the first disciples, but the quietly excited anticipation of the faithful redeemed who live in the eternal day of the resurrection light. We no longer fear death's darkness and thus can meet the night's darkness with anticipation of the Light of Christ. Every other vigil over a sick bed, in anxious fear of a suffering child, is given meaning by this Vigil. This is the Great Vigil and every other has meaning only through it. This is the Vigil unto Life that gives hope to every other vigil of life.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo
 
"If one should inquire about the reason why we keep such a vigil, the answer is easy to find and give. For he who has granted us the glory of His name has illuminated this night: He to whom we say 'You shall enlighten darkness' enlightens our hearts, so that just as our eyes rejoice at this splendor of lighted candles so our mind may be enlightened and shed light on the meaning of this resplendent night.
 
"Why, then, is it that Christians keep vigil on this anniversary night? For this is our greatest vigil and no other vigil of similar proportions is known. In answer to our eager query, When do we keep vigil? We reply: Several other vigils are kept by us, but nothing comparable to this vigil. The apostle has urged the faithful to frequent fastings and vigils recalling his own practice in the words, 'Through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food' (2Co 11:27). But tonight's vigil is so special that it deserves to appropriate to itself the common title of 'vigil.'"

Augustine of Hippo
Matthew 27:57-66

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
 
Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise.' Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last fraud will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can." So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (ESV)
Prayer
Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
For all those who are suffering marital difficulties, that God would lead them to see that marriage is a sign of Christ's love for his bride, the church
 
For those weighed down by the cares of the world, that they would be encouraged by the death of Christ and the power of His resurrection
 
For Bobbi Phelps, who is recovering from cancer therapy, that the Lord who heals both body and soul would grant her strength and a full recovery
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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