The darkness of Holy Saturday is the kind of creative darkness in which God made the world (Genesis 1:1-2:4a). In keeping with this theme the Vigil recollects creation alongside moments of deliverance from chaos, including the Flood (Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13), the redemption of Isaac when Abraham nearly sacrificed him (Genesis 22:1-18), and the Passover (Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21; 15:1b-13, 17-18, or Exodus 15:1-6, 11-13, 17-18). That pattern of readings to explore the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection exemplifies typology, an ancient principle of interpretation in which the church saw in the experience of Israel foreshadowings (or “types”) of the salvation from death itself that is implicit in Jesus’ victory over the grave.
Prophecy also anticipates salvation, and the words of Isaiah (55:1-11; 12:2-6) and Zephaniah (3:14-20) are presented, not only with their immediate meaning at the time they were spoken, but as anticipating what becomes possible with the Resurrection. What was once a collective and metaphorical promise articulated by Ezekiel (36:34-28; 37:1-14) is understood to be fulfilled during the night prior to Easter. Wisdom derived from God also anticipates redemption, as is exemplified in today‘s reading from the book of Proverbs (8:1-18, 19-21, 9:4b-6). Baruch, a work from the Apocrypha, skillfully combines the motifs of Prophecy and of Wisdom (Baruch 3:9-15; 3:32-4:4).
The Vigil celebrates the connections between past redeeming acts and what Jesus has given by means of his resurrection, using appropriate psalms to mark past deliverance and its connection to Christ. Today’s psalm readings convey not only ancient praise of God but also celebrations of victory in a new idiom (Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26; 46:1-11; 19:1-14; 98:1-9; 114:1-8). Yet it is notable that, just as psalms earlier in the week acknowledged God’s help in the midst of suffering, so during the Vigil the vulnerability of those who celebrate, and the setting of the Resurrection in the context of suffering, is acknowledged by means of today’s psalms (Psalm 16:1-11; 42:1-11; 43:1-5; 143:1-12). Eucharistic readings convey those connections by linking the baptism of each believer to Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-11), to the celebration of Passover (Psalm 114), and to the announcement to Mary Magdalene and her companions that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Mark 16:1-8).
The Seven Days of Creation
This reading from the beginning of the book of Genesis depicts God’s creation of the world out of chaos. Creation is our first indication of God’s love for and intimate connection with the world, a connection typified in God’s subsequent acts of redemption, culminating during the Easter Vigil in Jesus’ redemption from death.
When God began to create the sky and the earth, the earth was formless and void, with darkness on the face of the deep, and a wind from God was sweeping over the face of the water. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, so God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness God called “night.” And there was evening, then morning, a first day.
God said, “Let there be a dry expanse in the midst of the water, and it will separate the water above from the water below.” So God made the dry expanse, and it separated the water that was below the expanse from the water above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the dry expanse “sky.” And there was evening, then morning, a second day.
God said, “Let the water below the sky be gathered into a single place so that the dry land will appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land “earth,” and the gathered water God called “seas.” And God saw that this was good. God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants that produce seed, trees bearing fruit that produces fruit of its same kind, the seed of which is in it, upon the earth.” And it was so. The earth sprouted vegetation: plants that produce seed of their same kind, and trees that bear fruit the seed of which is in it, of its same kind. And God saw that this was good. And there was evening, then morning, a third day.
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the dry expanse of the sky, to divide the day and the night, and they shall be tokens of the progression of time, of seasons, of days, and of years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky, to illuminate the earth.” And it was so. God created the two great lights, the great light to rule over the day and the small light to rule over the night, and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the sky, to illuminate the earth, and to rule by day and by night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that this was good. And there was evening, then morning, a fourth day.
Then God said, “Let the water teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth, upon the face of the dry expanse of the sky.” So God created the great sea-monsters and every living creature that moves with which the water teems, according to its kind, and every winged bird, according to its kind. And God saw that this was good. Then God pronounced a blessing over them: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water of the seas, and may the birds multiply upon the earth.” And there was evening, then morning, a fifth day.
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind, cattle and creeping things, and the animals of the earth according to their kind.” And it was so. God made the animals of the earth according to their kind, the cattle according to their kind, and all that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that this was good.
Now God said, “Let us make humankind, in our image and after our likeness. And humankind shall have dominion over the fish in the sea, and the birds of the sky, and the cattle, and all the living creatures of the earth, and all the creeping things that move on the earth.” So God created the human being in God’s image and after God’s likeness; in the image of God, God created the human being. Male and female God created them. Then God pronounced a blessing over them. God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over every living creature that creeps on the earth.”
And God said, “I am giving you all of the vegetation that produces seed that is on the face of the entire earth as well as every tree that has fruit that produces seed. This shall be yours as food. And to all living creatures of the earth, and all the birds of the sky, and everything that creeps upon the earth in which there is the breath of life, all the green vegetation is food.” And it was so. Then God saw all that God had done, that it was exceedingly good. And there was evening, then morning, a sixth day.
Thus were completed the sky and the earth and all of their component parts. For on the seventh day, God brought to closure the work God had done. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it God rested from all of the work of creation that God did. This is the history of the sky and earth when they were created.
Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26
The Great Hallel: God’s Acts of Love Never End
Psalm 136 calls on us to thank God for the steadfast love reflected in God’s creation of the world and his constant presence as a redeeming force in our lives. The Lectionary omits the psalm’s middle verses. These lines reflect on God’s concern for the people of Israel in particular, who experienced God’s presence in the events surrounding the Exodus from Egypt and in their receiving the land of Israel as an everlasting heritage.
- Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- Give thanks to the God of gods; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- Give thanks to the Lord of lords; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- To the one who alone does great wonders; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- Who in understanding created the heavens; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- Who spread out the earth upon the water; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- Who made the great heavenly lights; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- The sun for dominion over the day; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- And the moon and the stars for dominion over the night; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- For in our low state God remembered us; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- And God rescued us from our enemies; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- God gives bread to all flesh; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
- Give thanks to God of the heavens; God’s steadfast love is eternal.
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13
Noah and the Ark
The story of the Flood presents an example—similar to that of creation—of God’s delivering the world from a watery chaos. The certainty of God’s saving even a world defined by sin emerges as a pattern that, in the Christian tradition, reaches its apex in Jesus’ salvation from death.
And the Lord said to Noah, “Come, you and your entire household, into the ark, for you I have recognized as righteous before me in this generation. From each kind of clean animal, take seven pairs—the male and his mate; and from the animals that are not clean, take two—the male and his mate. Also from the birds of the sky, seven pairs—male and female—to keep their seed alive on the face of the earth. For in seven days, I shall bring rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I shall wipe out all that exists that I created on the face of the earth.” So Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.
In the six hundredth year of the life of Noah, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that exact day the fountains of the great deep burst open and the sluices of the heaven opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On that very day Noah and Shem, Ham, and Japheth—Noah’s sons—and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, came into the ark. They and every wild animal according to its kind and every domestic animal according to its kind and all the creeping creatures that crawl on the earth according to their kind and all the flying creatures according to their kind, every bird, every winged thing. They came to Noah, to the ark, two by two, of all flesh in which there is the breath of life. And those that came, male and female of all flesh they came, as God commanded him. Then the Lord shut him in. The flood continued forty days upon the earth, so that the water increased and lifted the ark, and it was high above the earth. The water abounded and greatly increased upon the earth so that the ark drifted upon the face of the water.
After forty days, Noah opened the window of the ark he had built. He sent out a raven, which went out and back until the water had dried from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the face of the ground. But the dove found no resting place for its foot, and it returned to him, to the ark, since there was still water on the face of all the earth. So Noah extended his hand and took it and brought it back to himself, into the ark.
When another seven days had passed, he again sent the dove out from the ark. The dove returned to him in the evening with a plucked off olive branch in its mouth. So Noah knew that the waters had abated from the earth. He waited an additional seven days and sent out the dove, and it did not again return to him. Then, in Noah’s six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters dried up from the face of the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and saw that the face of the earth had dried out. And in the second month, on the twenty seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.
And God said to Noah: “Leave the ark, you and your wife and your sons, and your sons’ wives together with you. And all the living things that are with you of all flesh, the birds and animals and all the creeping things that crawl on the earth—bring them out with you so that they might teem upon the earth and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.” So Noah went out, with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.
God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your progeny after you, and with every living creature with you—birds, domesticated animals, all the wild animals of the earth that are with you—all of those that came out of the ark, all of the creatures of the earth. Thus I shall establish my covenant with you, so that all flesh will never again be cut off by the waters of a flood, and there will never again be a flood that will destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between me and you and all the living things that are with you for all future generations: My bow I have placed in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
God, Our Refuge and Strength
Psalm 46 reflects on God’s saving power, here evidenced in God’s supremacy over nature as much as over nations. In the context of the Easter Vigil, the psalm’s conclusion, which depicts God as humbling armies and bringing an end to war, celebrates the new age that is inaugurated by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
To the director, a psalm of the Korahites, for the voice of young women, a song.
- God is our refuge and strength,
a help in distress, well proved.
- Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth changes,
though the mountains topple into the heart of the sea.
- Let its waters roar and foam;
let mountains quake at the sea’s swelling!
- There is a river whose streams bring gladness to the city of God,
the holiest of the habitations of the Most High.
- God is in its midst; it will not be toppled.
God will help it as morning dawns.
- Nations are in a commotion; kingdoms shake;
God puts forth his voice; the earth dissolves.
- The Lord of armies is with us.
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
- Come see the works of the Lord,
who produces desolation upon the earth.
- God stops wars to the ends of the earth.
God breaks the bow and cuts in two the spear;
chariots God burns with fire.
- Be still and know that I am God;
I am exalted among the nations,
exalted on the earth.
- The Lord of armies is with us.
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
The Binding of Isaac
Willing even to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice to God, Abraham models a man of unwavering devotion. Jewish tradition sees here as well the perfect faith of Isaac, who accepted God’s demand that he give up his life. In the Easter Vigil, these actions prefigure Jesus’ self-sacrifice. Through the mediation of the ram that was sacrificed instead, God delivered Isaac from death, and in the same way the world is redeemed through the death of Jesus, an offering of God’s own son for the purpose of the salvation of humankind.
Following those events, God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham, Abraham!” and he answered, “Here I am!” God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall instruct you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his ass and took two of his lads with him along with Isaac, his son. He split wood for the burnt offering and departed for the place that God told him.
On the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place a distance away. Abraham said to his lads, “Wait here with the ass while I and the lad continue over there. We will worship and then return to you.” So Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the flame and the knife, and they went, the two of them together. But Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father!” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here are the flame and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will see to the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked along together.
Now, they came to the place that God had instructed him, and Abraham built there the altar, and he set out the wood and bound Isaac his son and placed him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand and took the knife in order to slaughter his son. But a messenger of the Lord called out to him from the sky, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am!” And the messenger said, “Do not put forth your hand against the lad; do nothing to him! For now I know that you revere God, even to the point of not holding back your son, your only son, from me.”
Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a single ram caught by its horns in the brambles. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. So Abraham called that place, “The Lord Will See,” as it is said still today, “On the mountain, the Lord will be seen.”
Now the messenger of the Lord called a second time to Abraham from the sky and said, “On myself I have sworn—a declaration of the Lord: since you did this and did not hold back your son, your only son, therefore I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your seed like the stars of the sky and the sand that is on the shore of the sea. Your seed shall inherit the gate of their enemy. All the nations of the earth shall be blessed by virtue of your seed, since you heeded my voice.”
We Are Confident of God’s Help
The reading today of Psalm 16 exposes the reality of human vulnerability even in the face of God’s protecting presence. This theme speaks powerfully of the suffering of Jesus in the context of his crucifixion but also, more generally, of the suffering we all continue to experience in the imperfectly redeemed world in which we still live.
A Mikhtam of David.
- Protect me, God, for I have taken shelter in you.
- I said, “Lord! You are my lord.
Is my welfare not dependent on you?”
- As for the supposedly sacred ones that are in the land
and the powerful ones—the false gods—
my only desire for them is that
- the pain of those who follow other gods will increase.
I will not pour out their drink-offerings of blood,
nor will I lift their names upon my lips.
- The Lord is the portion of my lot and my cup;
you cast my lot.
- A good portion has been measured out to me;
indeed, my inheritance is pleasing to me.
- I will declare the Lord blessed, who gives me counsel;
even at night my heart corrects me.
- I have kept the Lord continually before me,
for with God at my right hand, I will not swerve.
- Therefore my heart is happy and my liver rejoices!
Indeed my flesh abides securely.
- For you will not abandon me to Sheol;
You will not allow your faithful one to see the Pit.
- You make known to me the path of life;
a satisfying abundance is found in your presence;
pleasures are eternally in your right hand.
Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21
Israel Is Saved at the Sea
Through Exodus 14-15, we reflect on the power of God’s deliverance in moments of the greatest darkness and need. The redemption of the people of Israel through God’s splitting of the sea following their Exodus from Egypt is paradigmatic of God’s power to save. In the perspective of the church, this deliverance foreshadows Jesus’ victory over the grave.
Pharaoh’s army approached, and the people of Israel lifted their eyes and saw the Egyptians streaming after them. In great fear the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Is this not what we told you in Egypt: Leave us be so that we might serve the Egyptians, since it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s deliverance, which God will carry out for you today. For even though you see the Egyptians today, you shall never again see them. The Lord will wage war on your behalf. You just be silent!”
The Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Speak to the people of Israel that they might move forward. But you, lift your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea, splitting it, so that the people of Israel can enter into the sea on dry ground. I am going to harden the Egyptians’ heart so that they will enter the sea after them, so that I will be glorified through Pharaoh and his entire army, his chariots, and his horsemen. Thus the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am glorified through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
So the divine messenger of God who went before the camp of Israel moved behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them.
It came between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. Thus the cloud and the darkness were there, and it lit up the night. Neither camp approached the other all night. Then Moses extended his hand over the water, and the Lord moved the sea with a strong east wind all that night, which turned the sea into dry land, splitting the sea. And the people of Israel entered into the sea on the dry land, as the water formed walls on their right and left.
But the Egyptians pursued, and every one of Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen entered after them into the sea. At the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the Egyptian camp from the pillar of fire and smoke, and God threw the Egyptian camp into confusion. Then God removed the wheels of Pharaoh’s chariots so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “We’d better flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
The Lord said to Moses, “Stretch your hand across the sea so that the water will return upon the Egyptians, upon Pharaoh’s chariots and his horsemen.” So Moses stretched his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its usual flow. Now as the Egyptians were fleeing before it, the Lord shook the Egyptians into the sea. And the water returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all of Pharaoh’s army that had followed them into the sea. There did not remain of them even one. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea, as the water formed walls on their right and left. Thus on that day the Lord delivered Israel from Egypt, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the shore of the sea. And Israel saw the great hand that the Lord lifted against Egypt, so that the people stood in awe of the Lord and had faith in the Lord and in Moses, God’s servant.
Then Miriam the prophet, the sister of Aaron, took up the timbrel in her hand, and all of the women went out following her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
Sing to the Lord, for God has triumphed majestically;
horse and rider God has thrown into the sea.
Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18
The Song at the Sea
The Song at the Sea is a victory poem, recited by the people of Israel after their release from Egyptian bondage and following God’s victory over the pursuing army of Pharaoh. It testifies to God’s power to save those in greatest need, no matter the severity of their situation or the depth of their desperation. The presentation of this passage in the Lectionary omits verses 14-16, which describe how God wiped out or silenced all other nations so that God’s chosen Israel could pass.
- I shall sing to the Lord, for God has triumphed majestically;
horse and rider God has thrown into the sea.
- Yah is my strength and my song and has been my salvation.
This is my God whom I shall adorn with praise,
the God of my ancestors whom I shall exalt.
- The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is God’s name.
- Pharaoh’s chariots and army God cast into the sea;
the best of his officers were drowned in the Sea of Reeds.
- The depths covered them;
they went down in the deep like a rock.
- Your right hand, Lord, glorious in power;
your right hand, Lord, shatters the enemy.
- In your great majesty you destroyed those who arose against you;
you sent forth your anger, devouring them like stubble.
- Through the breath of your nostrils the water was heaped up;
the flow stood upright like a heap of water,
the depths congealed in the heart of the sea.
- The enemy said, “I’ll give chase, I’ll catch them;
I’ll split up the spoil, my appetite will be filled with them;
I’ll draw my sword, my hand will dispossess them.”
- You blew with your breath, the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in mighty water.
- Who is comparable to you among the gods, Lord;
who is comparable to you, mighty in holiness,
inspiring awesome praises,
- You stretched out your right hand,
the earth swallowed them.
- In your loving-kindness you led this people whom you redeemed.
You guided them with your might to the habitation of your holiness.
- You led them and planted them on the mountain that is your own possession,
your fixed resting place;
you created it, Lord—
the sanctuary of the Lord, that your hands established.
- The Lord will reign for ever and ever.
God’s Word Will Be Fulfilled
Isaiah’s prophecy anticipates the salvation that Israelites experienced in 539-538 BCE, when Cyrus of Persia took control of the Babylonian empire and allowed the Israelite exiles there to return to their homeland. Read today, the passage reflects not only the immediate setting of when Isaiah’s words were spoken but also anticipates the salvation of all believers that becomes possible with the Resurrection.
- Ah! All who thirst, come to water!
And those who have no money, come, purchase, and eat.
Come and purchase without money and without price wine and milk.
- Why do you spend money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Sincerely heed me and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food!
- Extend your ear and come to me;
heed me and you will live;
and I shall establish for you an everlasting covenant,
the unfailing steadfast love shown to David.
- Look! I have made him a witness to the people,
a leader and commander of the peoples.
- Look! Nations you do not know, you will summon;
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
on account of the Lord, your God and the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.
- Seek the Lord when God can be found,
call upon God when God is close.
- Let the wicked abandon their ways,
and transgressors their thoughts.
Let them return to the Lord, who will show them mercy,
to our God, who abundantly forgives.
- For my thoughts are not your thoughts;
and your ways are not my ways—a declaration of the Lord.
- For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
- For just as the rain and snow fall from the sky and do not return there without watering the earth,
causing it to bring forth and sprout and provide seed for the sower and bread to one who eats,
- so my word that goes forth from my mouth will not return to me unfulfilled.
Rather it will accomplish what I desire and succeed at that for which I sent it.
Joyfully Make Known God’s Works
This reading reflects on salvation, not only in the immediate time in which the prophet’s words were spoken, but also anticipating what becomes possible with the Resurrection.
- Behold, God is my rescue!
I will trust and not fear.
For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song and has been my rescue.
- In joy you will draw water from the wells of deliverance.
- And you will say on that day,
Give thanks to the Lord;
call upon God’s name;
announce among the peoples God’s actions;
make known that God’s name is exalted!
- Praise the Lord with music, for God has acted majestically;
this is known in all the land.
- Shout and sing out in joy, inhabitant of Zion!
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4
Wisdom is the Inheritance of God’s Commandments
This reading from the book of Baruch anticipates salvation through an invitation to the wisdom of God as observed in the distinct heritage of Israel—a heritage that for the church foreshadows salvation from death itself, and thereby functions as an affirmation of hope during the Vigil.
Hear, Israel, the commandments of life. Pay close attention in order to gain insight. How has this happened, Israel, that you are in enemies’ land, that you grew old in a foreign land, that you became defiled with the dead, that you were counted among those in the grave? You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. If you had gone in the way of God, then you would have dwelt in peace forever. Learn where to find wisdom, where to find strength, where to find an understanding so that you will know also where to find longevity and life, where the light of the eyes and peace is. Who found wisdom’s place? Who entered into her treasures?
But he who knows all things knows her, and he found her with his understanding. He who prepared the earth everlasting filled it with four-footed animals. The one who sends the light, and it goes, calls it, and it obeys him in trembling. The stars shined in their watches and rejoiced. He called to them, and they answered, “Here we are.” They shined with gladness upon the one who made them. This is our God, no other can be compared to him. He discovered every way of knowledge and gave it to Jacob his servant and Israel, the one whom he loves. After this, he was seen upon the earth, and he lived among people. This is the book of the commandments of God and the law of the one who lives forever. All of those who keep it will live, but those who forsake it will die. Turn back, Jacob, and take hold of it. Travel through toward the light in the presence of its light. Do not give your glory to another nor your profitable things to foreign nations. We are blessed, Israel, because the things that please God are known to us.
Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6
The Value of Wisdom
This reading from the book of Proverbs reflects on God’s salvation from a new perspective. God reveals the divine will through wisdom, which leads us down paths of righteousness and justice towards God’s blessings.
- Will Wisdom not call out, nor Understanding raise her voice?
- At the top of the heights, the side of the path, at the crossroads, she is stationed.
- Next to gates, in front of the town, at the entranceways, she cries out:
- To you, people, I call;
my voice to humankind.
- Learn, simple ones, prudence;
dullards, learn knowledge!
- Hear! For princely things I shall speak,
and from my open lips, that which is right.
- For my mouth will utter truth,
while wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
- All the utterances of my mouth are said in righteousness;
they contain nothing twisted nor crooked.
- My fruit is better than gold and refined gold;
my produce, than choice silver.
- In the way of righteousness I walk,
in the midst of the paths of justice,
- to bequeath wealth to those who love me,
and their treasuries I will fill.
- 4b. To those who lack intelligence, Wisdom says:
- Come, eat my bread,
and drink the wine I have poured.
- Abandon foolishness and live!
Walk straight on the path of understanding.
God Is Revealed in Creation and Law
This reading depicts the entire universe’s praise of God. Such praise is the only appropriate response to the perfection of all creation and the splendor of God’s revealed truths.
To the director, a psalm of David.
- The sky recounts God’s glory;
the heavens declare the work of God’s hand.
- Day to day they pour forth speech;
night to night they declare knowledge.
- There is no speech, and there are no words,
unless their voice is heard.
- Throughout the land their call went out;
at the edge of the world, their words.
God made for the sun a tent in the sky,
- and it, like a bridegroom, emerges from its wedding canopy,
exultant as a strong man to run his course.
- The edge of the sky is its rising place,
and its circuit to the sky’s end,
so that nothing is hidden from its heat.
- The Lord’s Torah is perfect,
restoring one’s inner being.
The Lord’s testimony is confirmed,
making wise the simple.
- The Lord’s precepts are right,
gladdening the heart.
The Lord’s commandment is clear,
enlightening the eyes.
- Awe of the Lord is pure,
The Lord’s ordinances are truth,
- They are more desirable than gold
and than much refined gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
than what flows from the comb.
- Indeed, your servant is instructed by them;
in observing them is great gain.
- Who can discern errors?
From my hidden ones, cleanse me!
- Also from presumptuous sins restrain your servant;
may they not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless and cleansed of great transgression.
- May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before you, Lord, my rock and my deliverer.
A Prophecy of Israel’s Restoration
The collective promise regarding God’s ingathering of Israelite exiles to their Promised Land that the prophet articulated is understood to be specifically fulfilled during the night prior to Easter.
- I will take you from the nations,
and gather you from all of the countries,
and bring you to your land.
- And I will sprinkle on you pure water
so that you will be cleansed of all of your uncleannesses;
from all of your idols I will cleanse you.
- I will give you a new heart,
and a new spirit I will place within you.
I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh
and will give you a heart of flesh.
- My spirit I will place within you,
and I will act so that you will follow my law,
and my ordinances you will carefully observe.
- You will dwell in the land that I gave to your ancestors,
and you will be my people,
and Iwill be your God.
Psalm 42 and 43
We Yearn for God’s Presence in a Time of Despair
Psalms 42 and 43, a single poetic passage numbered as two separate psalms, set the esurrection in the context of suffering. This reading leads us to acknowledge in our still imperfect world the continued vulnerability even of those who celebrate Jesus’ victory over death.
To the director, a maskil of the Korahites.
- As a ram longs for streams of water,
so my innermost being longs for you, God.
- My being thirsts for God,
the living God;
when will I come and appear before God?
- My tears have been my bread day and night,
as people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
- These things I remember and pour out my soul,
how I used to pass along in the throng,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with sounds of joyful praise and thanksgiving,
a multitude celebrating the festival!
- Why do you despair, my being,
and murmur within me?
Hope in God, for I will yet praise God,
for God’s saving actions.
- My God, my being despairs within me.
For this reason I call you to mind,
from the land of Jordan and the Hermons,
from Mount Mizar.
- Deep calls to deep,
at the sound of your water-spouts;
all of your breakers and waves crash over me.
- By day, the Lord will assure God’s steadfast love;
by night, God’s song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
- I will say to God, my protecting cliff,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning in response to the oppression of the enemy?”
- Like a shattering of my bones, my enemies reproach me,
as they continually say, “Where is your God?”
- Why do you despair, my being,
and why do you murmur within me?
Hope in God, for I will yet praise God,
my own help and my God.
- Vindicate me, God,
and defend my cause
against an impious people;
from the deceitful and unjust, protect me!
- For you are my God, my refuge.
Why have you spurned me?
Why do I go in mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?
- Send forth your light and your truth;
they will guide me.
They will bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling place.
- Then may I come to the altar of God,
to God, the joy of my gladness.
I will praise you with the harp,
God, my God.
- Why do you despair, my being,
and why do you murmur within me?
Hope in God, for I will yet praise God,
My own help and my God.
The Metaphor of the Dry Bones: The People of Israel Renewed
In the context of this Vigil, the story of the Valley of the Dry Bones, the prophet’s metaphor for God’s rejuvenation of the people of Israel, is understood to refer to the events of Easter and Jesus’ victory over death.
The hand of the Lord came upon me. It took me out by the spirit of the Lord, and it placed me in the valley, which was full of bones. And God passed me over them, all around: there were very many bones lying in the valley and they were extremely dry.
God said to me, “Mortal! Can these bones be returned to life?” And I responded, “My Lord, God, only you know!”
Now God said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: Dry bones! Heed the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord, God, to these bones: I will bring upon you breath and you will live! For I shall place upon you sinews, and will cause flesh to rise upon you, and will spread over you skin, and will place in you breath, and you will come alive, and you will know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I was commanded, and, as I prophesied, there was a sound, then a noise, and the bones came together, bone to bone. And I looked and, indeed, there was on them sinew, and flesh arose, and they were covered with skin, but there was no breath in them.
Then God said to me, “Prophesy to the breath! Prophesy, Mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord, God: From the four winds, come, breath! Blow into these slain ones so that they will come alive.” So I prophesied as God commanded me, and breath came into them, and they came alive and stood on their legs, an exceedingly great multitude.
Now God said to me, “Mortal! These bones represent the entire house of Israel. They say: Our bones have dried up, our hope is lost, we are entirely cut off. Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord, God: I am opening your graves, and I will raise you from your graves, my people. And I will bring you to the land of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and raise you up from your graves, my people. And I will place my breath in you and you will live, and I will settle you on your land, and you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and acted”—the word of the Lord.
Save Me from Those Who Wish Me Harm
Psalm 143 acknowledges God’s help of those who suffer, who are pursued by enemies who seek their harm. The passage has heightened meaning during the Easter Vigil, in which it is seen as a reflection on Jesus’ suffering in the context of his crucifixion.
A psalm of David.
- Lord, hear my prayer;
in your faithfulness listen to my supplication;
in your righteousness answer me.
- Do not enter into judgment with your servant,
for no mortal can be found righteous before you.
- My enemy pursued me,
crushing my life to the ground,
making me dwell in dark places, like the long dead.
- Thus my breath grows faint within me;
within me, my heart is dismayed.
- I remember the days of old;
I consider all of your deeds;
on the work of your hands I meditate.
- I spread out my hands to you;
my inner being, like parched land, thirsts for You.
- Quickly, answer me, Lord!
My breath is at its end.
Do not hide your face from me,
so that I would become like those who go down to the Pit.
- Make me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
for in you have I trusted.
Instruct me in the path I should follow,
for to you I lift my very being.
- Rescue me from my enemies, Lord;
in you I have sought shelter.
- Teach me to perform your will,
for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me
on level land.
- For the sake of your name, Lord, preserve me in life;
in your righteousness, remove me from trouble.
- In your steadfast love destroy my enemies,
and bring an end to all of my adversaries,
for I am your servant.
The Joy of Israel’s Restoration
This reading from the book of Zephaniah directs to the people of Israel at the beginning of the seventh century BCE an oracle of restoration and return to their homes and homeland. In the context of Advent, the excerpt underscores the continuity of God’s redemptive purpose.
- Sing out, daughter of Zion;
raise a cry, Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!
- The Lord has overturned your judgment;
God has turned aside your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord,is in your midst;
you need not fear evil any longer.
- On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, Zion!
Let your hands not sink in despair!
- The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a saving warrior.
God will rejoice over you in happiness;
God will renew you in God’s love.
God will rejoice over you with a ringing cry.
- Those who suffered from the appointed time—[when] I punished you—
were an expiation tax on Jerusalem, a reproach.
- At that time, I will act against all who humble you,
and I will rescue any who stumbles,
and any who was driven away I will gather up.
And I will make them an object of praise and a name in all the land in which they were shamed.
- At that time, I will bring you,
and at the time I will gather you:
then I will make you a name and an object of praise among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.
Let the Entire Earth Celebrate God’s Victory
Psalm 98 is a hymn of praise for the victory instigated by God in days of old. It corresponds to and sheds new light on the divine victory God has wrought in connection with Christ.
- Sing to the Lord a new song,
for God has performed extraordinary acts;
God’s right hand brought God victory,
along with God’s holy arm.
- The Lord has made that victory known;
in the sight of the nations God revealed God’s righteousness.
- God recalled God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to the House of Israel;
the ends of the earth saw our God’s victory.
- Let all the earth raise a shout to the Lord;
let them burst forth in a joyous shout, give a ringing cry, and sing in praise.
- Let them sing praise to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and sound of melody.
- With trumpets and the sound of the shofar,
let them raise a shout before the Lord, the King.
- Let the sea roar, and all that it contains,
the earth, and those that dwell on it.
- Let the rivers clap hands;
together let the mountains give out a ringing cry
- before the Lord,
for God is coming to judge the land.
God will judge the earth with righteousness
and the peoples evenhandedly.
Baptism Brings Entry into Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
Easter emerged as the natural occasion for converts to Christianity to begin their new life of faith by means of baptism. Since the time of Pentecost, immersion in water had been understood by Jesus’ followers to signal how God’s spirit rushed over them when they were baptized in the name of Jesus. Here Paul extends the significance of the ritual by relating the believer’s immersion in water to the experience of death, so that arising from baptism joined the believer to Jesus’ resurrection.
Can you not understand that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? We were buried with him through that baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the Father’s glory, so we also might walk in newness of life. Having been united in likeness to his death, so shall we be in likeness to the Resurrection. We already know that our timeworn humanity has been crucified with him, so that the body of sin ceases, and we no longer serve sin; after all, one who has died is cleared of sin. If we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ—raised from the dead—no longer dies; death no longer governs him. Dead, he died to sin once and for all; alive, he lives with God. You, too: consider yourselves dead to sin and living with God in Jesus Christ.
In the Exodus and Conquest of the Land, Nature Recognized God’s Power
Psalm 114 reflects on God’s divine power and the victories it facilitates in times of the greatest need. In the Easter Vigil, this past victory is connected to the one celebrated today, when God, in the body of Jesus, conquers even death.
- When the people of Israel left Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
- the territory of Judah became God’s sanctuary,
the territory of Israel, God’s realm.
- The sea saw and fled;
the Jordan River reversed course.
- The mountains skipped like rams;
the hills, like sheep.
- Why is it, sea, that you fled?
Jordan, that you reversed course?
- Mountains, that you skipped like rams?
Hills, like sheep?
- Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
- who turned the rock into a pool of water,
flint into a fountain of water.
The Female Disciples’ Visit to Jesus’ Tomb
This is the original ending of the Gospel according to Mark. Because it is abrupt, closing with the silence of Mary Magdalene and her companions rather than their announcement of the Resurrection, longer endings were added by copyists over time. But Mark’s Gospel is designed for a community of believers under persecution in Rome, and silence was for them a wise policy. The women do not see Jesus himself, but receive the command to direct the disciples and Peter to Galilee, where they are to see him. The Gospel deliberately ends with the promise of that vision.
And when Sabbath elapsed, Mary Magdalene and Mary of James and Salome purchased spices so they could go anoint him. And very early on first of the week they came upon the memorial when the sun dawned. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll the stone away from the opening of the memorial for us?” They looked up and discerned that the stone had been rolled off (because it was exceedingly big). They went towards the memorial and saw a young man sitting on the right appareled in a white robe, and they were bewildered. But he said to them:
They went out and fled from the memorial, because trembling and frenzy had them. And they said nothing to any one; they were afraid, because—
1. So the Septuagint and others. Hebrew: “will be silent.”
2. Hebrew text is difficult and perhaps corrupt. This translation follows Marvin Sweeney (Hermeneia Bible Commentary series), based in part on the ancient translations found in the Septuagint (in Greek) and the Peshitta (in Syriac).
3. So Sweeney.