Tonawanda parish celebrates resurrection of Jesus Christ
The Easter Vigil Mass celebrated at St. Amelia Church in the Town of Tonawanda was a faithful reminder that on this holy night, the Church keeps watch, celebrating the resurrection of Christ in the Sacraments and awaiting His return to glory.
Parishioners and guests were greeted with a blazing fire outside the church so that people could experience the flames dispelling the darkness and lighting the night. This element of the vigil Mass is the service of light, or the Lucemarium.
With the church encased in darkness, members of the procession came into the church with the paschal candle then proceeded to use the flame from that candle to light the congregation’s candles throughout the church. Prayers were chanted to begin one of the most holy and longest Masses in the church calendar.
The ancient church hymn “Exsultet,” also known as the Easter Proclamation, was sung by a church cantor. The text captures the entire Easter mystery within the context of the economy of salvation, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Candles were extinguished and the second element of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word began. In the Liturgy of the Word, as many of seven readings from the Old Testament and two readings from the New Testament are read. The Mass at St. Amelia used a more condensed version with readings from Genesis, Exodus and Isaiah, and then the New Testament readings. The church lights are then lit.
Parochial vicar, Father Charles Johnson, welcomed all to St. Amelia and especially welcomed the six Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults candidates to the Mass who would be fully received into the Catholic Church on this night.
Father Johnson spoke of the reading from Genesis that God was called to rest on the seventh day and sanctified that day so that we could celebrate the life of our faith. In the reading from Exodus, Father Johnson spoke of the meaning of “the glow of God” referenced. When Moses came from Mount Sinai with the tablets his face was said to be radiant. He reflected that the glow of God is a reference that God is always with us. And that the 40 years the Israelites journeyed in the desert, was the real manifestation of God in the world.
In Matthew’s Gospel, the two men who are crucified with Jesus are said to be revolutionaries. In other Gospels, they are described as simply criminals. Perhaps John is describing them as revolutionaries because the advent of Christianity was a revolt to the common understanding of God at that time.
When Mary and Mary Magdalen visit Jesus’ empty tomb, the angel who appears to them tells them “do not be afraid.” And He is not here… go to Galilee and you will see Him. “What is Galilee to us,” Father Johnson asked. “It is where we discovered God.”
“And Pope Francis tells us that the Risen Lord invites us to remember our faith,” he continued. “The Lord comes back to us in the Eucharist, and we must remember our promise to the Lord.”
In the Liturgy of the Baptism the six RCIA students approached the altar with their sponsors and were addressed, anointed and confirmed.
They later received Communion for the first time in the Liturgy of the Eucharist segment of the Easter Vigil Mass.
St. Amelia Pastor, Father Sebastian Pierro thanked the numerous staff and volunteers who worked many hours in Holy Week to prepare the church, as well as the music director, Steven Gruhalla, and joint choir of St. Amelia and St. Francis of Assisi who sang at the Mass.