Sermon for Vigil of Easter

I had the honor of being celebrant for the Vigil of Easter, with the 1962 Missale Romanum, at St. Augustine’s Church in S. St. Paul, Minnesota.

Here is my sermon.

http://www.wdtprs.com/prayercazt/080323_Vigil_sermon.mp3 


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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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38 Responses to Sermon for Vigil of Easter

  1. prof. basto says:

    Pictures?

  2. prof. basto says:

    pictures?

  3. prof. basto says:

    Suggestion of title:

    Nihil enim nobis nasci profuit, nisi redimi profuisset.

    *****

    btw,

    Sorry for posting the previous message twice.

  4. Volpius says:

    Very inspiring Father.

  5. Denis Crnkovi? says:

    This sad news is brought to you by my local pastor, SJ. It is not tangential to the current topic since it illustrates – in great contrast to Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s excellent Easter sermon – how much it is necessary for our preaching clergymen to stick to the Truth. The exhortation to stand on guard against the sins of despair and presumption and their catalysts and to examine our lives in the light of the True Light perfectly fit the substantial message of the Easter feast. I was particularly struck by the speculation about those people who “live without any perspective of anything beyond the grave. Imagine what it would be like to live that way…Were it not for the mightly Love of God there would be only despair… It would be too terrible to contemplate our fate.”

    Yet it was this exact variant of a philosphy of life that we were asked to consider today by our parish priest. Compare what Fr. Zuhlsdorf has said to this line that we were asked to swallow at our local Easter Mass. “I imagine that at our deaths many of us will be surprised to find out that some atheists live the message of Jesus better than we do.” The good father continued to explain that Jesus would welcome them with words like “You have helped the poor and the needy and so you have done this to me.” He went on to imply that the place of the good atheist in heaven is secure because the unbelievers were capable of performing good acts. I was left with the impression that it might even be sorta okay to be an atheist as long as I was a nice guy.

    Do not misunderstand me. I do not presume to know – as our pastor seems to know – who ultimately is given a bearth in the heavenly kingdom and who is not. That I leave up to the Judge. I do know along with Fr Zuhlsdorf, however, that the earthly lives of those who have no belief in God have a deep void in them into which their spiritual beings can so easily fall and never come out. While it IS true that Charity can be expressed by anyone, including atheists, the person who has NO FAITH WHATSOEVER IN GOD is – by definition – worse off than the believer. Because they have no faith they have no hope (cf. Pope Benedict’s Spe Salvi) and their love is therefore incomplete. By setting atheists higher than believers our pastor displays a profound naivete about the nature of the theological virtues (and insults the Faith of the believers, to boot). I was greatly unnerved.

    I mention all of this by way of thanks to the inventors of the internet and those who use it wisely. Were it not for them I would not have had the chance to enjoy a couple of excellent Easter sermons today.

    Haec dies quam fecit Dominus; exultemur et laetermur in ea.

  6. Volpius says:

    So atheists who don’t believe in God can serve him better and be more pleasing to him then Catholics, I sure would like to hear him try and explain that one, my understanding is was that without Faith it is impossible to please God.

    Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident, I have heard similiar sermons before. But you if you think that is bad have you ever had your priest allow a methodist clergywoman give the sermon, that is just one of things I have had to endure this Easter.

  7. Brian Day says:

    What a wonderful sermon against materialism. Bravo.

  8. Kradcliffe says:

    HAPPY EASTER, FATHER!!! :)

  9. Marc A. says:

    Thank you Father for “bi-locating” (Ha ha) to our parish to celebrate the Easter Triduum.

    That was my first time being present at the Traditional good friday celebration. All I can say is WOW! It was the most meaningful, solemn and beautiful celebration I have ever witnessed. Due to your blog I now have a much deeper understanding of the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. You have caused me to draw deeper into Crist, the Blessed Virgin Mary and his one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. You dont know the great good you have done for the Church through your blog.

    May great, sincere and pious devotion to Christ and Holy Mother Church grow through the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. God Bless the Holy Father and to the Bishops, priests, deacons and faithful united to him.

  10. Irenaeus says:

    Is it common for Catholics to preach so long? I’m a Prot; every mass I’ve attended (say, 2 dozen in my life) has involved a (a) short sermon, (b) a bad sermon or (c) both.

  11. Happy Easter Father! ¡Feliz Pascua!

  12. WRiley says:

    Brillant Father! Happy Easter!

  13. Iraneous: Huh? An PROTESTANT thinks 20 minutes is a long sermon?!? Good thing I’m sitting down. :-)

    I know you are a seeker. I don’t know where you live but it seems to me you are going to the “wrong” parishes. There can be good or bad Catholic homilists. But, there are many that are good. Same mixed bad as in the Protestant churches.

  14. a seminarian says:

    Father, can you post more of your sermons? We seminarians can sure use more formation here! Thanks!

  15. Matt Q says:

    Happy and Blessed Easter to everyone!

    Father Z, I listened to your homily. Very good and inspiring. If only our… Well, yes, we pray for them.

    You totally have a broadcaster’s voice. Clear, pleasant, **manly**. You even sound smart. You’re certainly not like others who make people’s ears bleed.

    Radio is wide open, Father. Why don’t you consider a radio program? Didn’t you say you used to be on MSNBC? Cool.

  16. Irenaeus says:

    Cathy of Alex, I mean for Catholic homilists. When I preach, I usually go 25 minutes. I’ve been in Lutheran churches where the rule is about 15 and Presbyterian churches where the rule is about 45, so I’m accustomed to longer. It’s just every single homily I’ve heard (live, not on tape) is like 5-10 very poor minutes. I get that it’s about the sacrament, but…

  17. Vincenzo says:

    Matt Q wrote: “Radio is wide open, Father. Why don’t you consider a radio program? Didn’t you say you used to be on MSNBC? Cool.”

    You can see when he was on the Fox News Channel here.
    (at the 11:44 mark).

  18. Trad Tom says:

    What a wonderful sermon, Father Z !! All of us who read your written words or hear your spoken words are truly blessed. May the Lord always bless and keep you.

  19. Peter David Bolan says:

    Thank you for the beautiful Easter Vigil at St. Augustine’s

    God Bless You,

    Happy Easter!

    Peter David Bolan

  20. rpg3 says:

    I had the pleasure of listening to a wonderful sermon this morning at my local TLM, now I have the pleasure of listening to another excellent Easter sermon, thank you very much Father!

  21. Jim says:

    It was a perceptive sermon. Thank you for posting it.

    Re: “So atheists who don’t believe in God can serve him better and be more pleasing to him then Catholics, I sure would like to hear him try and explain that one, my understanding is was that without Faith it is impossible to please God.” Let’s not be so hard on this pastor – I have known Catholic Christians that have been a real cross to bear. Pharisees come to mind. The point is you must live your faith! Faith without works is not the answer. I take the pastors’ message to be that you must follow Christ and truly be known as a Christian. I know too many Catholics that are it in name only, not in actions. A good reminder for Catholics who are so once a week on Sundays!

  22. Melody says:

    Irenaeus:
    Firstly, I think one must rightly factor in that with non-liturgical church settings the readings for the days are often chosen by the pastor and read during the sermon.
    On the other hand, the mass contains a significant portion of time spent hearing readings (two for the TLM, three for the NO) after which the homily is given primarily as a means of interpreting scripture, although other pressing matters may be dealt with. Of course, there are many bad homilists… You don’t have those in your church?
    But more to the point you are right in saying mass is about the sacraments. Believe it or not lousy speakers get ordained. Some in this category teach errors or in a shallow manner and deserve to be censured. But the main role of the priest is to be a firm and loving guide for the faithful and a dispenser of sacraments. A priest who shows extraordinary care ministering to the sick and dying may trip over his tongue in his homilies. Our Lord did not let Moses go his way when he protested, “I am not eloquent, neither hereto-fore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (KJV, Exo. 4:10).
    I grew up with this wonderful religious order priest who spoke three languages (including ancient Hebrew), gave thought provoking sermons, and was a patient and kind confessor. He also had the most soothing, somnolent voice one could ever imagine… The occasional warning of hellfire seemed only the most vaguely threatening when gently spoken by that soft monotone… (Imagine a gentle, saintly version of Ben Stein). I pitied his students at the school (where he taught advanced chemistry) dearly. But, it’s horrible to think that a servant of God might be reduced in many places to be measured almost solely by the sum of his speaking ability. This is my great annoyance with Protestant churches.

  23. Irenaeus says:

    Melody, thanks for the comment. Maybe I’m still prot in this area, but boy, you’ve got a captive audience of dozens or hundreds that trust you, a well-delivered homily can do a lot of good. Also, my most recent bad experience in this area was Palm Sunday, so it’s fresh on my mind…

  24. Melody says:

    Great sermon Father. Hearing it made me glad I went to confession today (with a thorough priest who made feel like I was being scrubbed with a Brill-O pad). I bet there will be a longer line this week. ^_^
    This is not to say that I find it depressing (okay, maybe until the spectacles), but it is definitely thought-provoking. You certainly have an emotional voice, It must have woken any young people in the pews just then. (Maybe a few even thought the sermon was “way hardcore.” ^_^)

    Also, I’m adding atheists to my rosary intentions from now on… All that darkness helps me love them more, a great thing for me, for theirs are the comments which tend to wound me most in discussions. This relates back to your other point that modern culture would have us see others as “annoying” unless (I assume it is implied) they are useful.

    Happy Easter!

  25. Melody says:

    Irenaeus: I read the blog post. Ack! It sounds like you got a rambling non-sermon. Those annoy me because I think priests can always read a page out of the Office if they have no time to write anything. (Many of Father Z’s podcasts involve readings from it).
    I agree with you about the “captive audiences.” But one gets used to the good priests who are lousy homilists–one can’t get used to a bad priest without interior effects.
    In any case, the Church may be one, holy, and apostolic, but the exercise of sacred tradition is only as good as the people running it. I do suggest looking for a more conservative parish in your area, and prayers for the parish you currently attend

    (Almost forgot)
    Happy Easter!

  26. Thomas says:

    Denis Crnkovi:

    Your remarks bring to mind the words of St. Alphonsus de Ligouri (from his short work, “Uniformity with God’s Will”). At the beginning of the first chapter, commenting on Charity is the bond of perfection, he makes the following statement: “…the more one unites his will with the divine will, the greater will be his love of God. Mortification, meditation, receiving Holy Communion, acts of fraternal charity are all certainly pleasing to God — but only when they are in accordance with his will. When they do not accord with God’s will, he not only finds no pleasure in them, but he even rejects them utterly and punishes them.”

    So, it appears that all of our good works must be done in uniformity with God’s will.

  27. Marta Garbarino says:

    Dear Fr. Z.:
    Family dynamics allowed some of us to go to the vigil and some to the Easter Mass at 11:45 at St. Augustine’s. I was so grateful to be able to hear your sermon on the podcast as well as hear Fr. Echert’s wonderful homily. We are so blessed and so grateful that you wonderful priests have said “yes” to God and are using the magnificent gifts He has given you for the benefit of His people.
    In thinking about what you said, it came to me that those Resurrection glasses are really the eyes of Christ. It’s the beginning of the way of perfection for us wounded, but infinitely loved mortals. Wasn’t it St. Theresa of Avila who said, “everything is a grace”? Each person and situation with which we come in contact, whether briefly or for a lifetime is an opportunity to do violence to our passions, take on the eyes and mind of Christ and join our wills to the Father’s. What a gift that we get so many chances every day!
    Again, thank-you for coming to St. Augustine’s and thanks to Fr. Echert, Fr. Pederson, and Fr. Altier for their dedication to the Truth and their love of His people.

  28. jarhead462 says:

    Irenaeus: You mentioned the length of Fr. Z’s sermon….but what did you think of it’s substance?

    Semper Fi!

  29. Irenaeus says:

    Jarhead, I found it great, of course. Impressions: very Catholic, very Augustinian. Christocentric. The homily says something and says it well. Substantive: it deals with real ultimate issues of life and death and destiny. Red meat. Not overly technical or high-falutin’. Now, I’m a professional biblical scholar and an amateur theologian, so maybe it’s more technical and complex than I take it to be, but it seems to me that this sermon would be understood and appreciated by your average Catholic in the pew.

  30. Kradcliffe says:

    That was a very nice homily, Father. Thank you for posting it. I’d like to hear more of your sermons in the future. If you’ve posted them here, before, could you make a list of links on the left side of your blog? That would be really helpful.

  31. Wow your blog is very professional Fr! A very Happy & blessed Easter..

  32. Kathryn says:

    Dear Father,

    My daughter and I just tried to listen to your homily but it was very speedy. The homily sounded a bit like Alvin of the Chipmunks fame. Any suggestions on how to slow down the speed of the homily?

    Happy Easter Monday!,

    Kathryn

  33. Nathan says:

    + JMJ +
    Happy Easter, Father.

    Just to pile on, thank you for the podcast of your quite excellent sermon. There’s quite a lot to meditate upon in it.

    In Christ,

  34. Melody says:

    Kathryn: That sounds like you might have a problem with the sound codecs on your computer. Try updating whatever media player you use and updating/installing flash if you haven’t already ( http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/ ). You might also have to uninstall the old versions of flash, for which a tool is provided at that site.

  35. mike says:

    I was at the Easter Vigil celebrated by Fr. Z. It was my first usus antiquior ever! It was a challenge for me as this was the longest liturgy of the year, and I had never really even looked at my Baronius Press Missale Romanum prior to arriving at 11pm! Overall, I thought it was beautiful and every moment was full of the rich symbolism of our Catholic faith.

    I don’t know how to post pics here; see them at my blog here:
    http://oldbooksclub.blogspot.com/2008/03/pics-of-easter-vigil-with-fr-z.html

    It struck me how challenging it was for everyone else in the sanctuary (with the exception of Fr. Z.) to follow along smoothly. From the assisting priests (acolytes?) to the altar boys to the schola cantorum- all were very focused and intense. Don’t get me wrong, it was a flawless liturgy as far as I could tell, but I bring it up simply to point out the fact that what I witnessed on Saturday night was once the norm. Liturgy was taken seriously by the men and young men/boys executing it. It was not something to watch, but something to join in and contemplate. The hard work, thought, and effort was once not so hard and not so uncommon. I myself was challenged by what was before me; I worked hard to follow along and to think about the rich meaning rather than it being spoon fed to me in the form of fluff. I really was participating. My wife asked if I fell asleep at all or if I was bored (as it was very late), but honestly this did not occur at all as I was too focused on everything happening; not a moment during the mass was wasted. These days it seems to take a lot of effort to do something beautifully; this made me a little bit sad, as I reflected upon how little effort we put into most of our liturgy today. That’s really too bad. What I saw at the Vigil on Saturday was hard work, and it was more beautiful and more meaningful because of it.

    Another thing that struck me was how wonderfully rich the Latin text really is. I teach Latin, and as I translated the text on my own and also consulted the English, I was amazed (but I guess not that surprised as I regularly follow the Catholic blogosphere) at how much richer the mass was than a typical ‘dumbed-down’ Novus Ordo mass really is. I suspect a lot of this is because of poor translation, but the actions of the priest and those assisting were much more symbolic- ironically more in sync with the Scriptures than the ‘typical’ mass of today. Also helpful were the beautiful vestments, sacred vessels, ad orientem altar, artwork, iconography, and communion rail. St. Augustine’s is quite nice.

    Having 3 readings as opposed to 2 in the old Missal (for a solemnity or feast day) does not seem to compensate for all that is lost in the rich translation found in the Missal. The extra reading also does not replace ad orientem worship and the symbolism found in so many other ways abandoned after the ‘reform’. Hence, the old mantra that “Catholics don’t read the Bible” is rather silly or even “we need more Scripture”; Catholics aren’t smarter or more faithful for having more readings on Sunday, and often it makes us dumber as ‘Fr. So&So’ will refuse to comment on that excerpt from Hosea or Tobit anyway!

    I really do appreciate receiving the Eucharist at the rail, as it gives a little time to contemplate before receiving while kneeling and viewing the altar, as opposed to filing up and grabbing the Eucharist.

    So, in general I had a good first experience, but it was rather challenging, even for someone who knows Latin fairly well. It honestly seemed laborious to have the readings in Latin; I kept going back and forth between wanting to check out the Latin and translate it myself, and actually following the story of the reading. I was also simultaneously holding a candle and trying to watch what was happening in the sanctuary. This was too much brain overload at 1 am for me!

    On another note, I have been present at some lovely Novus Ordo masses celebrated ad orientem and entirely in Latin at St. Agnes, and they are wonderful.

    To conclude, as I put the different (positive) liturgies I have been to all into one vision (including some study on the subject as I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas), I would desire that mass be ‘celebrated’ this way:
    I’d prefer all the smells, bells, statues, stained-glass, architecture,
    vestments, manliness, rich meaning, and vestments of the usus antiquior combined
    with the ‘format’ of the Novus Ordo. I really prefer the Scripture and the proper in English with the standard parts of the ordinary in Latin (Pater Noster, Gloria, Credo, Agnus Dei, Sanctus, “Hoc est Meum Corpus” etc.). I say the standard parts of the ordianry, because it is my impression that things are added on feast days etc. Again, I am no expert, this is simply one man’s opinion.

    At the common parish, it would probably be a stretch to demand more than a good English translation of the Novus Ordo, ad orientem (or at least a cross on the altar facing the east/liturgical east), Agnus Dei, Sanctus, and licit/lovely vestments at this point.
    Oh, and a priest who follows the rubrics as well as the ‘liturginator’ at St. Augustine’s; aka no outstretched arms as if Father ‘Bob’ is trying to hug the congregation with his emasculated love.

    Happy Easter!!!!!

    -Michael

  36. Karen says:

    I walked out of Easter Mass before the first reading. (Luckily I was able to go elsewhere and find an actual Roman Catholic Mass.) I went to St. Monica’s in Santa Monica, where the “gathering song” was “All Are Welcome Here” by Marty Haugen. After the song was (finally) over, Monsignor explained to us that he was going to do a litany of the people or groups of people who are welcome at St. Monica’s.

    I said to myself, “If he says the word “gay” before he says the word “resurrection,” I’m walking out.

    And so I did.

    I worked hard to be present, both physically and otherwise, for Lent, Holy Week and the Triduum. I spent Holy Saturday at the foot of the cross, only to have my Easter experience shrunk at the door. It’s not about the resurrection and atonement and so forth. It’s about the Democratic Party Platform.

    I am SOOOOOOOOOO sick of this.

    But very grateful for the posted homily. I needed that.

  37. Karen says:

    I walked out of Easter Mass before the first reading. (Luckily I was able to go elsewhere and find an actual Roman Catholic Mass.) I went to St. Monica’s in Santa Monica, where the “gathering song” was “All Are Welcome Here” by Marty Haugen. After the song was (finally) over, Monsignor explained to us that he was going to do a litany of the people or groups of people who are welcome at St. Monica’s.

    I said to myself, “If he says the word “gay” before he says the word “resurrection,” I’m walking out.

    And so I did.

    I worked hard to be present, both physically and otherwise, for Lent, Holy Week and the Triduum. I spent Holy Saturday at the foot of the cross, only to have my Easter experience shrunk at the door. It’s not about the resurrection and atonement and so forth. It’s about the Democratic Party Platform.

    I am SOOOOOOOOOO sick of this.

    But very grateful for the posted homily. I needed that.

  38. Melody says:

    Bless you Karen… If it’s not too much of a drive for you, I went to visit a wonderful monastery in Alhambra a while back. I checked, and sure enough they have the TLM every Sunday at 1:00 PM. http://sts-alh.org/sttheresechurch/