Let Us Exult!

By Simeon Elderfield

My enduring memory of the Easter Vigil growing up was seeing my father as a deacon in my local parish singing the Exsultet. This memory is so strong that to this day, it’s his voice I hear when I think of this beautiful acclamation with which we welcome the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Exsultet, which has its roots in the 5th century, is sung to a darkened church, illuminated by candlelight. The deacon calls all to rejoice in the profound miracle of the God-Man rising from the dead, especially those in the church gathered around the Paschal Candle. It is a solemn moment, but filled with a sense of hidden joy, waiting to erupt from the voices of the faithful.

Of all the moments in the Easter Vigil, it is this which I find moves me the most. The tune is beautiful, especially when sung well, and the poetry of the words is sublime. It does better than any theology at summing up the profundity of the incarnation, that intricate plan conceived by God before time to unite us fully to him.

The lines that particularly speak to me are found close to the beginning of the prayer, when the deacon exhorts the congregation with the words:

‘Rejoice, let mother Church also rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of his glory; let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.’

It is powerful and stirring, reminding us of the power of the voice to proclaim the magnificent truths of our faith. This power is something we often choose not to exercise, whether out of ignorance of fear, but Easter is a time when we simply must shout for joy. To remain silent is tantamount to condemning ourselves.

This Easter, I recall the great Pope Benedict XVI’s reminder that ‘The Resurrection is a cosmic event, which includes heaven and earth and links them together.’

The completeness of the Resurrection is utter, and only by bringing ourselves in unity with the resurrected Christ will we be complete ourselves. The pain and anxieties of the world are made totally irrelevant, because the promise of the Resurrection is so great, so wonderful. It is the only promise we can truly have hope in.

This is the reason for our rejoicing, and a worthy cause to raise our voices so the churches we are in may shake to their foundations, that the land we are in may know the power of Christ and the coming of his dominion.