Sri Lanka, martyrdom, and the light of faith

The Easter Exsultet, sung across the world as the bombs detonated in Colombo, hailed the arrival of the “night in which Christ has destroyed death.”

May 02, 2019

By Ed Condon
On Saturday night, April 24, the Church celebrated its most solemn and joyful liturgy.

As it does every year, the Vigil Mass of Easter began when the paschal candle was lit from a fire burning outside the church.

That candle led the assembly in silent procession into the darkened church. The priest turned toward the faithful and announced “The light of Christ!”

“Thanks be to God,” responded the assembly, as the light of the paschal candle was passed throughout the assembly, flooding the darkened room with the new light of the resurrection, aglow in the small flames of hundreds of candles.

At the same time I attended the Easter Vigil Saturday night, a series of suicide bombs exploded in churches across Sri Lanka, killing nearly hundreds. The attacks were timed to coincide with Easter Sunday celebrations.

The transition of the vigil liturgy, from darkness to light, reflects the procession of the Church from death to life, illuminated by the light of the Resurrection.

The Easter Exsultet, sung across the world as the bombs detonated in Colombo, hailed the arrival of the “night in which Christ has destroyed death.”

Of course the blood-spattered walls and ceiling of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Sri Lanka offered what appeared to be a macabre juxtaposition to the empty tomb of the gospel. But through the eyes of faith, and of the Church, the horrific violence was a witness to the Resurrection of Christ.

Those Catholics mourning in Sri Lanka know that light — the light —  has come into the world, and darkness cannot overcome it.

Sri Lanka is not the only place where churches are burning and Christians are dying. From Mosul to Cairo, to France, to Kaduna and Columbo, Christians, the world over, face violence and persecution. But somehow, in many parts of the West, that reality goes unseen.

The reason is complicated.

The Anglican Bishop of Truro, Philip Mountstephen, has been charged by the British government with reviewing its foreign policy failures to address the persecution of Christians worldwide.--CNA

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