BRIDGEPORT — After the long darkness of the pandemic, people are questioning the meaning of their lives and looking for answers, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said at the Easter Vigil Mass celebrated at St. Augustine Cathedral.
“They are asking, ‘Why am I here? Where am I going? And what does all of this life really mean?’” he said. “And behold, the answer which they seek is the one who has risen from the dead, the one who has broken the chains of sin and death, the one who gives every human heart its mission and destiny — Christ, the light that will never be extinguished.”
During his homily at the Easter Vigil, Bishop Caggiano called upon the faithful to be heroic witnesses to the light and not be afraid to preach the Gospel in a world that is often hostile to it.
He said that at times we can block the light of Christ “with our complacency, our familiarity, the fact that perhaps at times in our lives we become lukewarm or make peace with the world around us, when in fact we are called to be heroic in our witness to the light, to not fear the consequences of preaching this light of Christ to a world that sometimes does not want to hear it, does not want to see it, does not want to see it in you and me.”
Bishop Caggiano said that many people who are searching, hoping and looking for Christ, especially after the darkness of the pandemic, will find him in those who give faithful witness to the Gospel.
“He will come to them through you and me, and the light we shine in our hearts,” he said. “Let us show the world out there what it means to follow in the footsteps of the crucified and risen Savior.”
The Easter Vigil, which is the greatest liturgy of the year, the “mother of all vigils,” as St. Augustine said, began with the Liturgy of Light. The cathedral was in darkness while outside a holy fire was lit called the Lucernarium and blessed by Bishop Caggiano. The new Paschal candle was then lit, representing Christ, the light of the world. The priest led a procession into the dark church and stopped three times, proclaiming, “Christ, our Light!” as the candles of the congregation were lit from the Easter candle.
After the Easter candle arrived in the sanctuary, a Redemptoris Mater seminarian sang the ancient “Easter Proclamation,” also known as the Exsultet from the Latin “rejoice.”
This was followed by the Liturgy of the Word — seven readings from Genesis through Exodus and the Prophets to the New Testament, which were read in English and Spanish and chronicled God’s unfolding plan of salvation. Between the readings, psalms were chanted.
Since earliest times at the Easter Vigil, catechumens received the Sacraments of Initiation. Bishop Caggiano announced, “Tonight, Daniel, our brother, will be baptized, confirmed and receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord.”
After the blessing of the baptismal water, the young man received his sacraments and later was the first person to receive Holy Communion.
The entire congregation renewed their baptismal promises and received a blessing from Bishop Caggiano with the newly blessed baptismal water.
The Easter Vigil culminated with the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In his homily, Bishop Caggiano reflected on his early mornings at his former residence in Trumbull, where he would begin his day with a cup of coffee and sit on the sofa in his sitting room, “enjoying a perfect view of the cemetery that abuts the property and the rising of the sun every morning.”
“It was in days like these in the beginning of spring that I had the great privilege to look upon those first rays of light that pierced the darkness, a light that steadily grew in power, color and beauty,” he recalled. “That light gave strength to my spirit and many times joy to my heart to prepare for what the day would bring. You and I, my friends, have come here tonight to celebrate a different type of dawn — a light that is more brilliant than a thousand suns. For it is the light of the one Son that is eternal.”
“For this is the sacred night that you and I have our spirits renewed, our hearts emboldened by a light that has pierced away the darkness of sin and death,” he said. “Your sins and my sins, your death and my death. For this is the night of our victory in Jesus Christ, a light that will never be extinguished, a light that brings hope and glory to all God’s children.”
The light of Christ comes to us in our baptism, he said, when we enter into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ by grace, which enlightens our minds by the gift of the Holy Spirit, giving us the gifts of faith, hope and love, along with the promise of everlasting life. It makes us adopted daughters and sons of God and members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
“We celebrate that great gift, perhaps the greatest of all gifts given us, this night when the darkness finally failed and the light conquered forever,” he said.
Recalling his early mornings at sunrise in Trumbull, Bishop Caggiano said the first light of dawn was blocked by a row of evergreen trees that were planted to separate the residences from the cemetery, and the sunlight “needed to fight its way to be seen through the branches until it rose high enough that the trees could no longer block it, to shine pure, unencumbered and clear for the eye to see.”
“Many a day I thought how beautiful it would be if those trees were not blocking it, if the light could be seen from its very beginning,” he recalled. “I wonder about that in your life and mine, for do we believe that the light has conquered darkness in Jesus Christ? Yes, we do believe it. We are here to celebrate it. But I must ask you, my friends, how often do you and I block the shining of that light in our lives like those trees do in Trumbull?”
Bishop Caggiano said that now, more than ever, we need to trim away whatever is in our lives that blocks the light of Christ.
“My friends, as we leave this church, let us resolve to take all that is withered, all that is dead in our lives, all that blocks us from being true witnesses of the light in the world and cast it aside and burn it away so that the light can shine brightly.”
At the conclusion, he said it was a great blessing to celebrate the Easter Vigil of the Lord together, and the congregation applauded.
“It is, please, Heavenly Father, a sign of hope for what is to come for us in the months ahead.”