This text was originally published as part of Ad Cenam Agni, a 2023 virtual Lenten Retreat hosted by the Abbot's Circle.
In the pitch black of the lightless church, first one, then several, and finally hundreds of candles fill the space with sacred light. Amidst the swirls of incense, the deacon chants the Church’s ancient proclamation of praise: Exultet iam angelica turba cælorum. This is the liturgy’s Easter Vigil echo of the Lord’s Good Friday reproaches. But now the Church with joy rehearses all God has done for us and sees in the events of history the deeper spiritual meaning of liberation from Satan, sin, and death. As Israel stepped on the far bank of the Red Sea with dry feet, so Christ steps on the far bank of death and plants His living feet back on the earth.
Truly this is a blessed night, a glorious night, when the catastrophic fall of mankind in Adam is revealed in the New Adam to be a happy fault. This is the night whose wonder gleams as bright as the day. The Paschal candle burns through the night and all the next day, the herald and pledge of our own rising from the dead on the Last Day. Alleluia!