A few minutes after a darkened St. Joseph Cathedral was brought into light in a celebration for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Bishop Richard J. Malone called this day the most important moment in the Catholic Church's year during an Easter Vigil Saturday night.
"'He is not here. He has been raised,'" the bishop said, quoting the Bible in his homily. "Because of those words at the empty tomb, the Church for all of these centuries has celebrated this day as its most important festival. The resurrection of the Lord trumps all of the rest of the wonderful feasts we have, even Christmas, does not rise to the importance of this day because of those words. Throughout the Christian world, (today) is a day of victory, triumph, newness and joy."
The Easter Vigil is a unique service for the Catholic Church, as the congregation begins by sitting in a dark church. The only light in the room came from a fire that was blessed by Bishop Malone at the beginning of the service. From there, the Paschal Candle was lit by the fire and then carried in the procession. As the procession passed by members of the congregation, the light and fire from the Paschal Candle was passed to other members of the congregation as "Lumen Christi," the Light of Christ, is chanted three times.
The Easter Vigil also included the baptism of three candidates - Stephanie Galuszka, Brandy Illg and Jackie Mahoney. They joined several other candidates for confirmation, including Amber Illg, Mary Catherine Kelly, Amanda Martini-Calabrese, Travis Pabst, Lauren Valtin and David Watts.
"Our elect, who will be baptized during this celebration, know well from their journey of discernment and preparation the power that is in this decision to hand oneself over to the risen Lord and to enter into His merciful embrace," Bishop Malone said. "The Easter event and the resurrection confront us with some great questions: Do we really believe that Jesus Christ is risen and with us still?
"Is he really living in me as far as my awareness goes? Is the Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, the inspiration by which we struggle to live a good life every day? Is He the horizon of our hope, so that even when we stand at the grave of a loved one, we are confident even in our tears that the loved one will live on in the embrace of eternal joy? I've always believed that the greatest truth that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead is the incredible change that the resurrection has made in the lives of His disciples. Because we believe that Jesus is risen, and in it is our salvation, our lives are changed."