Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Vigil at Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community in Albany, NY

Dennis McDonald, ARCWP, with the ARCWP Upper Room Community led the Easter Vigil. Dennis' homily reflection is printed below.

Presider 1: We welcome you to our celebration of the Easter Vigil, a holy and blessed night in which we recall the reawakening of Jesus to new life. We are so happy you have joined us and we welcome you to share in a simple meal of thanksgiving as we gather around this table of friendship and unity.
Blessing of Ordained
We begin our liturgical celebration today by lighting our Easter Candle and our individual candles – a symbol of Jesus, alive in and around us.
As our individual candles are lighted from the Easter Candle, we sing three times, each time on a higher note:
All: Thanks Be to God!
Easter Proclamation
[adapted by Jim Marsh ARCWP]

Rejoice, heavenly powers!
Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation in God’s presence!
Jesus, the Anointed One, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of life renewed!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of our God!
Christ has risen!
Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes forever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church !
Exult in glory!
The Risen One shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the song of all God’s people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
Join me in praising God,
as we sing this Easter song.

Our God is with you.
R. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to God.

Let us give thanks to our gifting God.

R. It is right to give God thanks and praise.

It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices,
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful creator,
and the beloved one, Jesus the Cosmic Christ.

On this night, we remember our ancestors who escaped their slavery through the waters of the Red Sea .

Abba God, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your infinite love!
To gift us with Jesus, your beloved,
born of Miriam and Joseph.

Jesus went to his death remembering the words of Micah:
Live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God.
Yet, this is our Passover feast,
for Jesus, the Christ, broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

This is the night when Christians everywhere
bathed in grace freely given,
promise to reject all that is evil and grow together in holiness.

Therefore, O Holy One,
in the joy of this night,
hear our evening song of prayer and praise.

Accept this Easter candle,
may it dispel all darkness and evil,
and renew our confidence and bring us joy.

May Christ, the morning Star,
who sheds peaceful light on all creation,
find this hope burning brightly in our lives,
today and evermore.

When all our candles are lighted, we sing the joyful song which proclaims the feast:
Opening Song: We Are Called David Haas 
Come, Live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of our God!
We are called to be light for the kin-dom,
to live in the freedom of the City of God.

We are called to act with justice,
We are called to love tenderly,
We are called to serve another;
To walk humbly with God!

Come, open your heart!
Show your mercy to all those in fear.
We are called to be hope for the hopeless,
So all hatred and blindness will be no more!

Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great day when all will be one!
God will reign, and we’ll walk with each other
As sisters and brothers united in love!

Renewal of Baptismal Promises

Presider 2: (Presider asks the following questions and the assembly answers: We promise)

Do you promise to see what is good for your sisters and brothers everywhere, rejecting injustice and inequity and living with the freedom and responsibility of children of God?

All: We promise.

Do you promise to work for the realization of God’s vision of harmony and right relations among people and peoples, rejecting the idols of money and property and color and sex and position? 

Do you promise to seek peace and live in peace in one human family, rejecting prejudice and half-heartedness in every form, and all barriers to unity?

Do you promise to cherish the universe, and this precious planet, working creatively to renew and safeguard the elemental sacraments of air, earth, water?

Do you believe in God, the great Spirit of Creation, in Jesus, the simple servant of justice and love who lived among us so that all might live with abundant fullness; in the breath of God’s center, the Spirit who continues the work of forgiveness and reconciliation, birthing and blessing, challenge and hope, so that together we can continue the work of creation?

Sprinkling with Water

Presider 3: (prays the following while sprinkling the assembly with water)
May you live as a child of God and may your name be a blessing in our time.

Assembly is invited to place their lighted candle on the friendship table.

Statement of Faith

Presider 4: Please join in proclaiming our statement of faith.

All: We believe in one God, a divine mystery
beyond all definition and rational understanding,
the heart of all that has ever existed,
that exists now, or that ever will exist.

We believe in Jesus, messenger of God's Word,
bringer of God's healing, heart of God's compassion,
bright star in the firmament of God's
prophets, mystics, and saints.

We believe that We are called to follow Jesus
as a vehicle of God's love,
a source of God's wisdom and truth,
and an instrument of God's peace in the world.

We believe in the Spirit of the Holy One,
the life that is our innermost life,
the breath moving in our being,
the depth living in each of us.

We believe that God's kin-dom is here and now,
stretched out all around us for those
with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it,
and hands to make it happen. Amen.


Presider 5: A reading from Stephen Bonsey
In Mary Magdalene’s presence, I am more than a spiritual tourist beholding a spectacle, more even than a witness to Jesus’ passion and resurrection. In solidarity with her I am among the disciples — not as one that betrays and abandons him (again and again) in my life, but as one that sees him for who he is and chooses to accompany him by heart’s-union on the path of transformation.

I imagined atonement — that is, becoming at-one — not as a matter of blood sacrifice (as I had been taught), but as something more along the lines of our mutual anointing.
Just as in human love two become one through gestures of devotion, so I and God become at-one through the giving and receiving of love, now and endlessly. In this way, I become “fully human” so that the Teacher can “take root” in me, I in him and he in me, he the vine and I the branch.

Presider 6: “Do not remain in sorrow and doubt, for his Grace will guide and comfort you. Instead let us praise his greatness, for he has prepared us for this. He is calling upon us to become fully human.”

Perhaps we will soon see gifted liturgists bring Mary Magdalene in full red regalia and with scented oils into Holy Week. Perhaps it will become commonplace for Easter Vigils to end with ecstatic dancing, singing and a feast of sparkling wine and chocolate cake, as ours did. If so, it will be Mary’s triumph.

These are the inspired words of Stephen Bonsey and the community affirms them by saying, Amen.


Presider 7: The Good News from the Book of John (20:1 – 18)
Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance, so she ran off to Simon Peter and the other disciple – the one Jesus loved – and told them, "the Rabbi has been taken from the tomb! We don't know where they have put Jesus!"

At that, Peter and the other disciple started out toward the tomb. They were running side-by-side but then the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He didn't enter, but bent down to peer in and saw the linen wrappings lying on the ground. Then Simon Peter arrived and entered the tomb. He observed the linen wrappings on the ground, and saw the piece of cloth that covered Jesus’ head lying not with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the disciple who had arrived first at the tomb went in. He saw and believed. As yet, they didn't understand the Scripture that Jesus was to rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Presider 1: Meanwhile, Mary stood weeping beside the tomb. Even as she wept, she stooped to peer inside, and there she saw two angels in dazzling robes. One was seated at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus' body had lain.

They asked her, "Why are you weeping?"

She answered them, "because they have taken away my Rabbi, and I don't know where they have put the body."

No sooner had she said this than she turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there, but she didn't know it was Jesus. He asked her, “Why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?"

She supposed it was the gardener, so she said, "Please, if you're the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you’ve laid the body and I will take it away."

Jesus said to her, "Mary!"

She turned to him and said, "Rabboni!" - Which means "Teacher."

Presider 2: Jesus then said, “Don't hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to Amma God. Rather, go to the sisters and brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Amma and your Amma, my God and your God!’"

Mary of Magdala went to the disciples. "I have seen the teacher!" she announced. Then she reported what Jesus had said to her.

These are the inspired words from the Gospel of John and the community affirms them by saying, Amen. 

Dennis McDonald's homily reflection
And so, once more we come to the end of Holy Week. As we gather to celebrate the Risen Jesus, it is important to recapture the week and what transpired to bring us to this moment. The week began with one man riding a colt into Jerusalem, proclaiming a kingdom of God that focused on justice, equality, and love. This man, Jesus, speaks out against the powers of Rome, while, Pontius Pilate, riding on a fine horse surrounded by an army, proclaims a kingdom of might, violence, and subjugation. The conflict is set. 

In the book, The Last Week by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, they review the entire week, sharing the actions of Jesus from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday. It is a week in which he continues to speak out and take action against both the temple leadership and Roman authorities. He “cleanses the temple”, indicts the Pharisees and Sanhedrin calling them out for their collusion with Rome. The Roman authorities see another messianic menace whose actions and words threaten to incite the people.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to speak out against the injustices of our day, and there is plenty to speak out against, injustice against immigrants, women, people of color, and our planet, to name a few. Joan Chittister puts it well, “It is your voice and mine, alone as well as together, that are meant to make God’s true nature known in the world. To be part of a group intent on change, we must raise a great voice, make a long shadow, and build a new picture of possibility, one that declares God’s greatness. Most importantly, we must “cry out” the news of what God wants for the world for as long as it takes.”

Holy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum, has Jesus sharing a simple meal with his disciples. In the midst of the meal, he takes staples of the day, bread and wine, blesses both, and offers it to them, saying this is my body, this is my blood, take, eat and drink. It is an invitation to participate with and in the life of Jesus, to partake in the symbolism of the bread and wine, in the call to establish the kin-dom of God on earth.

It is the invitation to give, as Jesus did, of our body and blood for the cause of justice, peace, and the reign of God. Crossan and Borg state it this way, “It was by participation with Jesus, and even more, in Jesus that his followers were to pass through death to resurrection, from the domination life to the servant life of human transcendence.”

We now arrive at Good Friday, a day that Jesus knew was coming. How could he not, he lived at a time when those who attempted to rise up and speak out against oppression and subjugation were dealt with swiftly and viciously. Those who spoke against Rome faced the most horrific of deaths, crucifixion. Jesus went to his death sure of his conviction that those who were downtrodden, reviled, scorned by those in power had a right to freedom, respect and dignity. This was the mission he had lived, helping those disempowered to recognize their innate worth, realizing that the Divine dwelt within them and loved them unconditionally.

Thomas Merton states: “If I find God I will find myself, and if I find myself I find God”, because the essence of who I am lies in God”.

Jesus found God and is so doing found himself, found his voice, found his life’s calling. And in so doing, he came to believe in a new vision, a new life for the world and a new life for him and us beyond the suffering and death that is faced in our lives.

And this brings us to Easter, the celebration of resurrection, of, as our first reading indicates, being at-one with the Divine. Jesus trusted in the belief and faith he had in his relationship with God. In his death he is embraced by the all-encompassing love of God and brought to new life in the hearts and minds of his disciples. There is a resurrection moment for those who follow him. He is not gone but is alive. They experience him anew in the garden outside the tomb, in the Upper Room, on the road to Emmaus.

The stories of these encounters with the Risen Jesus, let us know, as we struggle and work for justice and equality in our time, that we can also experience Jesus in our midst, experience a mutual anointing and a common calling to participate with and in the work of Jesus to bring God’s kin-dom to life. It is the continuing story of the Resurrection, the transformation of our lives through our relationship with the Divine which leads us to be beacons of hope to those weighed down by life’s burdens, to be voices for those who are voiceless, to be bearers of Divine Love to all whose paths we cross. 

We are a Resurrection people, let us rejoice and glad.


Presider 3: As we prepare for this sacred meal, we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers and we bring our many needs and concerns to the table.

(Please feel free to voice your concerns beginning with the words, “I bring to the table….”) 

We pray for all who have asked for our prayers and for all who need our prayers. Amen.

Presider 4: (Easter Preface adapted from a poem by e.e. cummings)

We thank you, God, for this most amazing day/ for the leaping, greenly spirits of trees/ for the true, blue dream of sky/ for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. We who were dead are alive again today/ is the sun's birth-day, the birth-day of wings/ in all of this wonder, how could we human merely beings/ lifted from the no of all nothing/ doubt unimaginable you? Now the ears of our ears awake/ now the eyes of our eyes are open/ awakened, quickened, alive, we join with all living creatures, and we sing:

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, Holy, Holy One, God of Justice, God of Light
Heaven and Earth are filled with your glory
Hosanna in the Highest.
Blest is the One who comes in the name of our God.
Hosanna in the Highest, Hosanna in the highest.

All: Holy One, what we can ever say about you is revealed in the harmony of nature all around us, and all right-relations. We have been taught that it can be found within us and among us, as well.

We give thanks for all your visionaries throughout our history, in so many traditions, who have enacted your peace in the fragile vessel of their humanity.

We are grateful for our brother Jesus, whose life forever shows us the truth of your love and our own capacity for loving in a godly way, to create with you a place of peace for everyone.

He lived what he taught, and in him, as in the emergence of your springtime, we understand that death has no final dominion. Through this recognition comes our own rebirth to freedom, courage, and encouraging love.

On the night before he died, Jesus gathered for the Seder supper with his friends. Like the least of household servants, he washed their feet, so that they would know how to remember him. Back again at the table, he lifted up the bread of freedom, spoke the grace, broke the bread, and offered it them, saying: (presider lifts the bread)

Take and eat of the Bread of Life
Given to strengthen you
Whenever you remember me like this
I am among you. (pause)

Then he lifted up the cup of blessing, spoke the grace, and offered them the wine, saying: (presider lifts the wine)

Take and drink of the covenant 
Made new again through my life in you. 
Whenever you remember me like this, 
I am among you.  (pause)

Memorial Acclamation: (Alternate sides – left and right – for each sentence)

We Rejoice. We Remember.
The Christ - a spark that lit the cosmos at the beginning of time.
We Rejoice. We Remember.
The Christ - a spark that is expanding across time.
We Rejoice. We Remember.
The Christ - a spark that was fanned into flame by those who ignited our lives in love and wisdom and joy.
We Rejoice. We Remember.
The Christ - a spark that is a sacred trust held by us to pass on to generations yet to come.
We rejoice. We remember. We celebrate.                                 Alexander J. Shaia
We will never make peace if we do not re-member, if we do not realize that your light and life and love are a heritage for all of creation, and that you see each of us as precious, bearing your image.

We can only make peace if we are passionately doing the work of justice and right-relations, working skillfully to eliminate the illusion of separateness so that we can live in communion, and rise up from our slavery: the dominion of death, and the attitudes, structures, and weapons of death.

We will learn to trust you, God of creation, liberation, rainbows and life. We will learn to trust creation and ourselves and each other enough, to open ourselves and our small circles until they are as wide as your own love.

We remember our brothers and sisters who have gone before us and all the saints who have done your will throughout the ages. We praise you in union with them, and give you glory through Jesus, our brother.

(Presiders hold bread and wine)

All: Through Jesus, we have learned to how to live.
Through Jesus, we have learned how to love.
Through Jesus, we have learned how to serve. Amen.

Presider 5: Let us pray together the prayer of Jesus

All: Oh Holy One, who is within, we celebrate your many names. Your wisdom come. Your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us. Each day you give us all that we need. You remind us of our limits, and we let go. You support us in our power, and we act with courage. For you are the dwelling place within us, the empowerment around us, and the celebration among us, now and forever. Amen.
The Prayer of Jesus as interpreted by Miriam Therese Winter

Presider 6:  Please join in the prayer for the breaking of the bread.

All: Loving God, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We will live justly.  
Loving God, You call us to be Your presence in the world.  We will love tenderly.
Loving God, You call us to speak truth to power. We will walk with integrity in your presence.


Presider 7: This is the Bread and Cup of Life. How blessed are we who are called to the table.

All: What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives; as we share communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.
Presider 1: Please join in singing our Communion Song.

Communion Song:  Oh, Mother God, Karen Drucker

O Mother God,
flowing through our hearts,
We give thanks
for the bread of our lives,
For the hands in the earth
And the fruit of your womb
Oh Mother God blessed be
Oh Mother God blessed be
Oh Mother God,
thank you for this day
For the love
that you wash over me
And this joy in my heart
I will share with the world
Oh Mother God blessed be
Oh Mother God blessed be


All:  Beloved One, you have filled our hearts with joy and hope and renewed all of creation in your beloved Son.  We are honored to serve you and to animate others in their generous response to your love.  As together we bring your love to the world, grant us the courage and strength to share that love and your presence with others. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Risen One, Amen.
Please join in singing our closing song and then offer each other a sign of peace.

Closing Song: City of God

Awake from your slumber! 
Arise from your sleep!
A new day is dawning
For all those who weep.
The people in darkness
Have seen a great light
The God of our longing
Has conquered the night.

Refrain: Let us build the city of God!
               May our tears be turned to dancing!
               For our God, our light, and our love,
               Has turned the night into day!

We are sons of the morning;
We are daughters of day.
The One Who has loved us
Has brightened our way.
The God of all kindness
Has called us to be.
A light for God’s people
To set their hearts free.


Oh, comfort my people;
Make gentle your words
Proclaim to my city
The day of her birth.

O city of gladness
Now lift up your voice
Proclaim the good tidings
That all may rejoice!


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