At Evening Prayer on this Easter Eve, we read from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)
For the 19th year now, I will carry the Paschal Candle into the darkened church tonight at the Great Vigil of Easter and sing the ancient Easter proclamation called the Exsultet (BCP 286).
What we do, as followers of Christ, is rejoice. Paul wrote to the Romans about the reason why: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death.”
Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and let your trumpets shout Salvation
for the victory of our mighty King.
Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.
Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in radiant light,
resound with the praises of your people.
Time bends in upon itself on this particular night. It is not only now, but also that Passover in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, and even that first Passover in Egypt when God’s people escaped from slavery.
In God’s salvation history we are now and always experiencing restoration from bondage to grace and holiness.
This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel,
out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.
This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin,
and are restored to grace and holiness of life.
This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell,
and rose victorious from the grave.
Redeemed and reconciled
We realize we are powerless to overcome our sins, but God can and will redeem us. We try to hide from God in our shame, but God sees through to our loveliness. We think we’re all alone, but God continually acts to reunite us with one another and all of creation.
How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving-kindness to us,
that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.
How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away.
It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn.
It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.
How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and we are reconciled to God.