This night, the night before Easter dawn, is the most holy of all nights.
This is the night of the first Day, when Light was spoken into darkness.
This is the night of the Passover, when the children of Israel walk through blood-stained wood into freedom.
This is the night that Israel walks through Sea on dry ground.
This is the night the crucified Lamb declares the victory of His cross.
This is the night when the chains of death are broken and light breaks out in the darkness of the grave.
This is the night of which St. Peter spoke when he wrote:
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22)
You entered the church in darkness, as though entering the dark tomb. But you were not alone in the darkness. The light of Christ goes before you and with you. Death is darkness, but even in death a glorious Light glows, warm and alive, life-giving – Jesus the Christ, the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can overcome. He has conquered Death by His death. “It is finished.” At sunrise, the whole world will know the great good news of the open, empty tomb. The stone will be rolled away and the morning sun will reveal the resurrection to all the world.
On this night the resurrection is but a small, flickering light as we are immersed in the mystery of this crucified and risen Lamb. The readings from the OT you are about to hear all bear witness to Christ’s work in, with, and under the history of Israel. This is His saving history, and it is yours in Holy Baptism. In Baptism you were joined to Him in His death and life. All that He is, and all that He does, is yours. This is your history in Jesus, this is your salvation in Christ.
Hear now the Word of the Lord, spoken to you in the darkness. Give attention to this Word, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
In this most holy night our Savior, Christ the Lord, broke the power of death and by His resurrection brought life and salvation to all creation. Let us praise the Lord, for He truly keeps His Word. The sun of righteousness has dawned upon us who have sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O night that is brighter than day,
O night more dazzling than the sun,
O night more sparkling than fresh snow,
O night more brilliant than all our lamps!
O night that is sweeter than Paradise,
O night delivered from darkness,
O night that dispels the sleep of sin,
O night that makes us keep vigil with the angels,
O night terrible for the demons,
O night desired by all the year,
O night that leads the bridal Church to her Spouse,
O night that is mother to those enlightened!
O night in which the Devil, sleeping, was despoiled,
O night in which the Heir brings the co-heirs to their heritage.
(Asterius of Pontus AD 341-400)