The Liturgy of Redemption
The Pascha (Greek) or Christian Passover has been celebrated in the Church from its earliest days. A vigil was held from the evening of Saturday to dawn on Sunday. After the preliminary blessing of a lamp or lamps by the deacon (“The light of Christ”), there followed a series of readings interspersed with chants/Psalms. One of the key readings has always been the account of the Israelite Passover in Exodus 12. Nothing could more clearly indicate the close original connection of the Christian with the Jewish ‘Passover’ than the choice of this lesson. The other primary reading was from the Gospel of John, the account of the death and resurrection of our Lord, extending from the trial before Pilate to the end of St. John’s account of the resurrection, with its hints of an ascension back to the Father. These lessons were seen as a perfect reflection of St. Paul’s phrase “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the feast with joy.”
After the lessons, there was a time for teaching, followed by the baptism and confirmation of the neophytes, who proceeded to take their part for the first time as new members of Christ in His prayer and offering, by joining with the rest of the faithful in the intercessory prayers and then in the Eucharist.
Thus, through hearing the word of God and responding in faith, all those present celebrated their redemption from sin and death through Jesus Christ and entering “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
In our liturgy, tonight we not only celebrate the redemption of mankind but also the redemption of all of God’s creation. Through Word and Sacrament, God offers us fullness of life in Christ to which we respond by reaffirming our Baptismal Covenant. We are the redeemed of God and, as members of the family of God, we celebrate and serve together in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.