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Easter Midnight Mass 2012


Homily by Abbot Peter McCarthy: 4-08-2012


My brothers & Sisters, I want to begin our reflection on Mark’s Easter Gospel by sharing with you again two of my favorite Easter quotes: The first is the well known theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar who wrote:

“The Easter event is, as has rightly been said time & again, without analogy. It pierces our whole world of living & dying in a most unique way.”

The second quote is from our Holy Father Benedict XVI:  spoken at his first Easter Vigil.

“If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, the Easter event is the greatest mutation… absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension… that there has ever been in the long history of life & its development.”

Is this not the “problem” of Easter? Why it seems much more “spiritual” “abstract” much less intimate & warm than Christmas?  We can’t “get it” we always seem to be missing something really concrete & grounded.  And since this was the “problem of Easter” from the very beginning…the only language that is used in the early Church is the language we always use when a Reality is too big  – too deep —too close to us. We speak the language of art…we speak the language of color…we speak the language of poetry. And so in this truly ancient Easter Vigil tonight we speak in fire & water & flowers & darkness & incense & movement & song & that ancient classical poetry of Israel: The creation Hymn of Genesis, the Song of Moses in Exodus, the prophet Isaiah’s lament of Yahweh’s tenderness; Ezechail’s hymn of living waters… ALL this to distract us…to tempt us to let go of that tiny world of self-commentary that we are so attached to. The evangelist’s ministry – the poet’s ministry- is to distract us from our small worlds & tempt us into something larger, more vibrant & alive…is it any wonder there’s a “problem” ??

This is exactly where we begin this Easter morning in Mark’s Gospel…there is a problem. Note…this particular Easter Gospel should begin in reverent silence …put yourself in this opening scene as Mark paints it:

“And very early in the morning (the women) went to the tomb just as the sun was (in the act) of rising.”

Surely we’ve all had this experience of walking on the earth as the sun is in the act of rising…how silent & how reverent the experience…surely this first Easter Morning!! BUT NO, Mark tells us these women are in an ongoing conversation on the way to the tomb. And right here is our door of entry into the Easter Experience…

“They had been saying to one another (they had been obsessing) will roll away the stone for us at the entrance to the tomb?”

Yes, we can join the two Marys & Salome in this ongoing anxious-conversation!  What is there for us to talk about except those big – unmovable (mega) stones that seem to prevent us from really experiencing our faith in Jesus risen? I mean where we find ourselves on this Easter Morning…where we find our world… seemingly so distant from New Life. The paralysis around immigration reform in our country… The nuclear threat in Iran… The deepening tensions between Israel & Palestine… The desperate plight of unemployed families among us… Our violent & bleeding world which increases the guilt we experience for our seemingly sleeping faith.

Yes, my sisters & brothers, it is easy for us to join the conversation of these three Gospel women this morning. YET just as we are getting comfortable in the conversation silence slices through this anxious discussion like a razor shaft of blinding sunlight. LISTEN FOR IT…listen for the SILENCE in Mark.

“But when they looked up they could see that the stone – which was very big- had already been rolled back. On entering the tomb they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right hand side.”

Now the silence becomes really tense & terrifying for the women…”They were shocked…traumatized” and that razor sharp shaft of sunlight slices through the dark silence of the empty tomb.”Do not be afraid! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; He is not here.”

STOP. These poor women walked into an ambush! Mark is honest about this…the vocabulary he uses is the same as his description of the ambush- experience of the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane the night Jesus was arrested… ”Frightened out of their minds “ is the sense of his Greek here.

For all these centuries the Church has stammered & stuttered like a frightened child trying to describe what happened to Jesus of Nazareth & what happened to those three women & what happened to us on that first Easter Morning.

Listen again to her most ancient hymn which we heard only moments ago:

“Rejoice, Heavenly Powers, Sing Choirs of Angels! Exult all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ our King is Risen! Rejoice, Oh Earth in shining Splendor, Radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills You! Darkness vanishes Forever!”

We touch tonight a MYSTERY that transcends our calculating understanding AND yet a REALITY that has always haunted our experience of ourselves. EASTER is the shocking announcement that God’s longing to be one with our human flesh…will never be limited or extinguished by our small minds or lack of hope. There is a LOVE for each one of us that is over & above & beyond  ANYTHING WE CAN DESERVE OR EARN OR EVEN DESIRE.

Jesus awakening from the tomb is also our awakening. Awakening to that Easter Faith that says appearances are indeed deceptive. No matter how dark the night – no matter how anxious the journey… Divine Love – Easter Light – has already Risen… Again, listen to the Angel:

“He is going before you into Galilee (your everyday life): there you will see Him, as He told you.”



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