The Importance of Light

As the days grow longer, I'm reminded of the importance light. One of the most striking symbols of Easter is Light, usually signified by the Paschal Candle.
Baobob sunset 03bSunset in Malaimbandy, Madagascar with its unique Baobob trees
The Holy Saturday liturgy begins with the quasi yin-yang transition from darkness and light. In many parishes enkindling the "new fire" consists of igniting a few small sticks of highly combustible wood, and then making sure the fire snuffed out as soon as the paschal candle is lit.

During my years ministering to the people of Malaimbandy, Madagascar, the Easter Vigil's "new fire" was more consistent. In an area where electricity was practically non-existent, fire was a daily commodity. It produced light to dispel darkness, warmth in cold weather, and heat for cooking daily rice. All of these realities were components of a healthy lifestyle.

As a consequence, our "new fire" took on the aspect of a large bonfire which would burn for about three days in the courtyard of the church. On Holy Saturday evening it became a rallying point for inhabitants of the town and surrounding villages. Its light assured us of sufficient clarity to proclaim all the readings for the Vigil Liturgy. With so many people present who were not Catholics, or not even Christians, it furnished us a splendid venue for evangelizing and, using the sequence of the Vigil readings, for explaining the history of salvation leading to Christ the true Light.

02 This Changes EverythingThere were even para-liturgical side effects to the bonfire. In a culture where families cook over a wood fire to prepare their daily meals and the flame of a candle supplies light to those who otherwise would grope in the dark, taking some of the embers from the "new fire" into their homes was considered to be a source of blessing – not to mention a saving on matches!

May the light of Christ shine brightly in your heart and, through your life, be reflected onto all those whom you encounter. “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 8:16). Alleluia!

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