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Thoughts from the Early Church
Easter Vigil
April 7, 2012

Easter Vigil Readings

Commentary: Basil of Seleucia

Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, has risen.

Christ descended into hell to liberate its captives. In one instant he destroyed all record of our ancient debt incurred under the law, in order to lead us to heaven where there is no death but only eternal life and righteousness.

By the baptism which you, the newly-enlightened, have just received, you now share in these blessings. Your initiation into the life of grace is the pledge of your resurrection.

Your baptism is the promise of the life of heaven. By your immersion you imitated the burial of the Lord, but when you came out of the water you were conscious only of the reality of the resurrection.

Believe in this reality, of which previously you saw but the outward signs. Accept the assurance of Paul when he says: "If we have been united to Christ in a death like his, we shall be united to him also in a resurrection like his."

Baptism is the planting of the seed of immortality, a planting which takes place in the font and bears fruit in heaven. The grace of the Spirit works in a mysterious way in the font, and the outward appearance must not obscure the wonder of it. Although water serves as the instrument, it is grace which gives rebirth.

Grace transforms all who are placed in the font as the seed is transformed in the womb. It refashions all who go down into the water as metal is recast in a furnace. It reveals to them the mysteries of immortality; it seals them with the pledge of resurrection.

These wonderful mysteries are symbolized for you, the newly-enlightened, even in the garments you wear. See how you are clothed in the outward signs of these blessings.

The radiant brightness of your robe stands for incorruptibility. The white band encircling your head like a diadem proclaims your liberty. In your hand you hold the sign of your victory over the devil.

Christ is showing you that you have risen from the dead. He does this now in a symbolic way, but soon he will reveal the full reality if we keep the garment of faith undefiled and do not let sin extinguish the lamp of grace.

If we preserve the crown of the Spirit the Lord will call from heaven in a voice of tremendous majesty, yet full of tenderness:"Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you since the beginning of the world." To him be glory and power for ever, through endless ages, amen.

(Easter Homily: PG 28, 1079-82)

Basil of Seleucia (d. 459) became archbishop of Seleucia about the year 440. He is remembered for his fluctuating attitude in the events which preceded the Council of Chalcedon in 451. He voted against Monophysitism at the Synod of Constantinople in 448, but at the “Robber Synod” of Ephesus in 449 gave his support to Eutyches, the originator of Monophysitism. Then at the Council of Chalcedon he signed the Tome of Saint Leo, which condemned Eutyches. Thirty-nine of Basil's homilies have been preserved. They show his concern to place the exegesis of his time within the reach of all.

Edith Barnecut, O.S.B. As a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, Sr. Edith was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Copyright © 1993, New City Press.
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Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year B, 46-47.

Edith Barnecut, O.S.B., ed.
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