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4/17/2003
WORD OF FAITH
Word brings us life
REV. ROGER KARBAN


The fact that seven of the nine readings proclaimed during the Easter Vigil are from the Hebrew Scriptures tells us several things.

First, this service certainly comes from early Christianity, from a period in which the Christian Scriptures were not yet regarded as “Bible.” It took a couple of centuries before anyone dared include the “New Testament” in the same volume as the “Old Testament.” Before then, the only Bible Christians knew was the Bible Jesus used.

Though Paul’s letter, the Gospels and other writings were saved and read, they were not yet regarded as having the same level of divine inspiration as the Hebrew Scriptures.

God now

Second, this preponderance of readings from the Hebrew Scriptures also helps us appreciate how early Christians regarded Scripture. They didn’t believe the Bible was just a record of God working in past peoples’ lives. They presumed their sacred writings were a door which people of faith entered in order to understand how God was working in their present lives. What happened before was still happening now.

Though each part of the liturgy is geared to help us reflect on Jesus’ Resurrection, His first followers were convinced there was much more to His becoming a new creation than just a narrative about some women discovering an empty tomb one Sunday morning and hearing an angel proclaim, “He has been raised up; He is not here!”

Those who originally created this vigil regarded Jesus and themselves as part of a centuries-long process of people giving themselves to God, trusting in someone who was leading them far beyond the limits in which their human nature had encased them.

For people of the book, this trusting began when their ancestors stepped out into a sea which normally would have killed them. Yet because they dared trust Yahweh’s word that they’d be okay, it turned into a sea of freedom (Ex 14: 15-15:1).

Not only would they never forget the actual Exodus, individuals like the prophet Deutero-Isaiah began to reflect and understand how that same word affected people’s lives 700 years after the Chosen People left Egypt (Is 55: 1-11). It became the most valuable dimension of their lives. The prophet can only compare it to rain and snow which come down from heaven and give life to everything they touch.

Beginning

Another author would later create the creation story of Genesis 1, rooting it in Deutero-Isaiah’s theology of Yahweh’s word (Gen 1: 1-2:2). Unlike the earlier story of Genesis 2, God doesn’t break a sweat in this narrative. The divine word does all the work, brining order out of chaos, life out of primeval darkness. This myth made sense to its readers because this is exactly what God’s word had accomplished in their own lives.

Finally, it’s that same word, delivered through an angel, which gives life to the three women venturing out early that Sunday morning to anoint a dead friend’s body (Mk 16: 1-8). They not only discover their friend is no longer in the tomb, but also find out that He who throughout His life so deeply trusted in that words “has been raised.”

Their discovery redirects their morning. Instead of anointing, they’re now to proclaim that same word of life and freedom to Jesus’ disciples - especially to one disciple, Peter, who failed so badly because he didn’t trust in that word.

Though the women at this point don’t seem to fulfill their “word-ministry,” we know their word eventually brings life to Jesus’ small, lifeless community.

As we sit back and listen to God’s word at the Easter vigil, we’re not just taking part in a religious ceremony. We’re actually being called to reflect on how that word has brought us life. If it hasn’t, it’d be best to stay home.

(04-17-03)













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