01 April 2021

'A fire with many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light.' Sunday Reflections, Easter Sunday


The Resurrection of Christ
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

At the Mass during the Day

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 20:1-9  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going towards the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

John 20:1-9 in Filipino Sign Language

Be glad, let earth be glad as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness . . .

Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light . . .

that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
and pour into me his light unshadowed . . .

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin . . .

This is the night 
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin . . .

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness . . .

But know we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honour,
a fire with many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light . . .

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Above are extracts from the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation, sung at the beginning of the Easter Vigil after the newly-lit Paschal Candle is brought into the church. I have highlighted the passages dealing with light, the great symbol of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rembrandt's painting at the top, The Resurrection of Christ, captures the light breaking through the darkness. And his painting below, Christ on the Cross, shows our Saviour on the Cross to be The Light that conquers the darkness. Rembrandt was a master in his play of light with darkness.

Christ on the Cross
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Fr Pádraig Ó Croiligh is a priest of the Diocese of Derry. Some years ago he published a book of religious poetry in Irish with the title Brúitíní Creidimh, which could be translated as 'Mashed Potatoes of Faith'. In his short poems he helps the reader digest aspects of our faith and religious practices. 

His poem Fód na Cásca (The Sod of Easter) refers to what seems to have been a custom in parts of rural Ireland where the hearth was the heart of the home, with a fire made from turf (peat) 24/7 as we say now, for cooking and for heat in the winter. The family and visitors gathered around it for the family rosary, for telling stories and singing. In many parts of Ireland people would cut their own turf in local bogland during the summer.

The poem for me is a reflection of these lines in the Exsultet: glowing fire ignites for God's honour, a fire with many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light. One of the most beautiful moments in the Easter Vigil is when the light of the Paschal Candle is shared, those who have lit their candles from it passing on the light to others until the whole church is ablaze with the light of Easter. Not only is the light never dimmed but it is multiplied by sharing. 

The newly-lit fire in the hearth on Holy Saturday is to be shared with those who live in the house and with those who visit, giving heat and light and nourishment through the food cooked and baked over it. And it recognises our need for constant renewal and forgiveness in the last line: go cionn bliana eile ar a laghad (at least for another year).

Turf (peat) fire

Fód na Cásca / The Easter Sod

Le / by Pádraig Ó Croiligh 

Ghlanaidís an simléir fadó

Aoine an Chéasta,

Agus d’fhágaidís gan tine é

Go dtí an lá dár gcionn

Go bhfuair siad aibhleog bheannaithe

Ó thine na Cásca

Ar an Sathairn Naofa.

Aiséírí an Tiarna

a thugann lasadh don tine teallaigh

go cionn bliana eile ar a laghad.


They would clean the chimney long ago

On Good Friday,

And would leave it without a fire

Till the following day

When they would be able to light a sod

Blessed by the Easter fire

On Holy Saturday.

The Resurrection of the Lord

Is what lights the fire in the hearth

At least for another year.

Deacon proclaiming the Exsultet at Paschal Candle

[Wikipedia, photographer]

Just before preparing this I read an article in the April 2021 issue of Pioneer magazine by James Shevlin, whom I know, about a wake and funeral in rural Ireland during the Covid winter when neighbours could not visit the home of the deceased or attend the funeral Mass. The remains were brought home at night. But as the family of the deceased came within a few miles of their village, the glow could be seen in the night sky. In the cold and frost, people stood outside their houses, along the roadway, at the end of roads, at crossroads holding all sorts of lighted candles and making makeshift altars and shrines to guide them all the way back home

The family later said that there were no words to explain the uplifting of spirits they experienced with the show or support they received . . . What was done was done with real love and kndness and support for them by people closest and dearest to them.

This truly was a Christian community expressing the truth of the words of the Easter Proclamation: a fire with many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its  light. 

An Easter Song from Beirut, Lebanon, 2011

I don't know of a more joyful expression of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ than this Easter song in Arabic.

May the people of Lebanon, who are undergoing times of difficulty and uncertainty, experience the consolation of the Risen Lord and find support from the international community in their vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence and pluralism (Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi, Easter Sunday 2021).

Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Easter Vigil

The complete celebration in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 04-03-2021 if necessary).

Easter Sunday Mass 

The Complet Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 04-04-2021 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.  GospelMark 16:1-7.


Authentic Beauty

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.

Pope Benedict XVI meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel, 21 November 2009.

Regina Caeli
Sung at a Vigil for Life in Notre-Dame de Paris, 22 May 2012

Regina Caeli is one of four seasonal Marian anthems sung or recited at the end of Compline (Night Prayer) in the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours, Breviary). It is sung from the Easter Vigil through Pentecost Sunday.

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia; 
quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia; 
resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia; 
ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

Queen of Heaven, rejoice. Alleluia.
For He, whom thou wast worthy to bear. Alleluia.
Has risen as He said. Alleluia.
Pray for us to God. Alleluia.

[Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia,

For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray.

God of life, you have given joy to the world

by the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through the prayers of his mother, the Virgin Mary,

bring us to the happiness of eternal life.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


The Regina Caeli replaces the Angelus during the Easter season, with the prayer in square brackets above added.

For me, the beauty of the traditional Gregorian chant in Notre-Dame de Paris above is that the Regina Caeli is sung by a congregation of believers praying that all of us will respect every human life, especially life in the womb. 

The setting below by Tomás Luis de Victoria is surely an expression of the beauty of the Risen Lord and of his - and our - Blessed Mother, the Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Regina Caeli
Setting for eight voices by Tomás Luis de Victoria
Sung by The Sixteen / Harry Christopher

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