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Thoughts from the
Early Church
Vigil on the Holy Night of Easter
March 31, 2018


Commentary by Hippolytus of Rome
Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? (Lk 24:5)

Now the holy rays of the light of Christ shine forth, the pure stars of the pure Spirit rise, the heavenly treasures of glory and divinity lie open. In this splendor the long dark night has been swallowed up and the dreary shadows of death have vanished. Life is offered to everyone; the whole world is filled with glory. A heavenly light more brilliant than all others sheds its radiance everywhere, and he who was begotten before the morning star and all the stars of heaven, Christ, mighty and immortal, shines upon all creatures more brightly than the sun.

Thanks to you the lamps of souls filled with the oil of Christ are no longer extinguished, for the spiritual and divine fire of love burns in all, in both soul and body.
For us who believe in him a glorious day has dawned, a long unending day, the mystical Passover symbolically celebrated by the law and effectually accomplished by Christ, a wonderful passover, a miracle of divine virtue, a work of divine power. This is the true festival and the everlasting memorial, the day upon which freedom from suffering comes from suffering, immortality from death, life from the tomb, healing from a wound, resurrection from the fall, and ascension into heaven from the descent into hell. So does God perform his mighty works, bringing the incredible from the impossible to show that he alone can do whatever he wishes.

To show that he had power over death Christ had exercised his royal authority to loose death’s bonds even during his lifetime, as for example when he gave the commands, “Lazarus, come out and Arise, my child.” For the same reason he surrendered himself completely to death, so that in him that gluttonous beast with his insatiable appetite would die completely. Since “death’s power comes from sin,” it searched everywhere in his sinless body for its accustomed food, for sensuality, pride, disobedience or, in a word, for that ancient sin which was its original sustenance. In him, however, it found nothing to feed on and so, being entirely closed in upon itself and destroyed for lack of nourishment, death became its own death.

Many of the just, proclaiming the Good News and prophesying were awaiting him who was to become by his resurrection “the firstborn from the dead.” And so, to save all members of the human race, whether they lived before the law, under the law, or after his own coming, Christ dwelt three days beneath the earth.

After his resurrection it was the women who were the first to see him, for as a woman brought the first sin into the world, so a woman first announced the news of life to the world. Thus they heard the holy words, “Women, rejoice,” for sadness was to be swallowed up by the joy of the resurrection.

O heavenly bounty, spiritual feast, divine Passover, coming down from heaven to earth and ascending again into heaven! You are the light of the new candles, the brightness of the virgins’ lamps. Thanks to you the lamps of souls filled with the oil of Christ are no longer extinguished, for the spiritual and divine fire of love burns in all, in both soul and body.

O God, spiritual and eternal Lord, and Christ, Lord and king, we entreat you to extend your strong protecting hands over your holy Church and over your holy people, for ever devoted to you. Raise high in our defense the trophies of your triumph and grant that we like Moses may sing a hymn of victory, for yours is the glory and the power throughout all ages. Amen.

Easter Homily: SC 27,116-118. 164-190)


Hippolytus (c. 170-236) was a Roman priest who probably came originally from the East. When Pope Callistus relaxed the penitential discipline of the Church, Hippolytus became the first anti-pope. The schism continued into the reign of Pontianus, but when Potianus and Hippolytus were both exiled to the mines of Sardinia they were reconciled before dying as martyrs for the faith.

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Edith Barnecut, OSB. was 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.

Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year C, pp. 46-47.
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Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
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