There are few places in the world that celebrate the wonders of new beginnings as in the Church during Easter. Each year, God in His Divine Wisdom carefully places Easter at the cusp of spring. Indeed, after the 40 days of Lent, one knows Easter is near when the dark and cold days of winter begin to recede and make way for the sun and the budding of new life.
The Church Herself experiences this contrast through the ritual celebrations of Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. Before, darkness is predominant; at Easter, the Paschal Light of God begins our celebration. Before, hope is all but lost at the hands of our ancestors and the meaning of life fades; at Easter we are restored to the Image of God and the joy of knowing life in abundance. The Good Friday rituals make us long for direction and truth; at the Easter Vigil we discover the Source of Truth and the Path of Life.
The Deacon holds a particularly privileged place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy, the climax of the dramatic Triduum. At the very beginning of the ceremony after the lighting of the Paschal Candle, he leads the people into the darkened church chanting, “Christ Our Light”. With each step, as this light vanquishes the night shadows, he silently proclaims the dawning of a new springtime in the Church; a new hope through Jesus Christ. We are refreshed! God is not dead, but has risen and conquered death as He promised.
Upon proceeding into the Sanctuary, the Deacon places the Blessed Flame in a prominent place—a place where its light is able to touch every person in the building. Then, the Deacon joyfully sings the Exsultet or the Easter Proclamation. Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels! Jesus Christ, Our Lord, is risen!
For most Deacons, the experience of singing this ancient hymn is an honor that transmits a wonderful message of Easter joy. Like the light of the Paschal Candle, the voice of the Deacon touches the ears of everyone in his surroundings with the message of wondrous exaltation. This message of joy is most properly delivered by the Deacon because, in his role as a “bridge” from the Sanctuary to the congregation, he is able to encourage his brothers and sisters to take this Light into the world outside and share it with those who are lethargic or unaware of what Our Savior has done for us.
Easter stands in stark contrast to the sadness and destruction brought on by the false promises of this world. Indeed, as Scripture illustrates, the people of our time aren’t very different from the ancients who continually fell into tragic mishaps because of their sins. Yet, the Deacon, while he walks with the Light of Christ, knows that he carries in his hands a symbol of the Truth for all those who willingly listen to the voice of God. It is for the creatures of God who once walked in darkness that this the Light of Christ is given. Indeed, it is this Light that allows us live in peace.
So, as a Deacon, it is important to remember that you are the one who carries in the message of Easter joy. You are the one that brings the Light of Christ to others. You are the person who comforts those who had no hope, brings joy to the sorrowful and announces the good news. With the truth that you carry to the altar, you are equipped with all you need to face a world that has forgotten what it means to be loved by God. It is the Deacon that brings in the new springtime for those who once lived in sin and are now able to leave their old self to the dust and ruble that kept them from Love, Himself.
So, my dear brother Deacons, make sure you are smiling when you deliver His Easter Message.