The Most Reverenced Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, was the Principal Celebrant at the 8pm Easter Vigil where he blessed the new fire and lit the Easter candle, at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on Holy Saturday, 7 April 2012.
The Vigil was followed by the procession from the crypt door outside towards the altar. The great Easter “Exultet” was sung in English by Mgr Mark Crisp, Rector of St Mary’s College Oscott. The staff and students from the diocesan seminary were a most welcome addition to the Easter Triduum this year. The Triduum is one service spread over Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday.
After the Liturgy of the Word and the Gloria, Archbishop Bernard Longley solemnly intoned the great Easter Alleluia. His beautiful tenor voice filled the Cathedral with the joyful sound of rejoicing; in contrast to the starkness of the previous six-weeks of Lent.
After the Litany of the Saints had been sung there followed the Celebration of Reception during which the Archbishop received and warmly welcomed three people (Peter Adcock, Angela Ashurst and Gary Turley-Finch) into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Longley then processed to the Baptismal Font where he blessed the water and the three candidates for Baptism – Debbie Kim, Grace Morgan and Sabrina Drummond – made their baptismal promises. Their sponsors and members of the congregation joined in with the renewal of their own baptismal promises, a welcome to the new trio and an affirmation of their faith.
The three candidates made their Profession of Faith and the Archbishop of Birmingham baptised them – pouring a liberal amount of water over the head of each. It was a short, simple but very beautiful ceremony that fully engaged every individual present.
Archbishop Longley then returned to the sanctuary where, standing at the foot of the steps, he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to the three people he had received, the three he had baptised, and seven others.
During his homily Archbishop Bernard Longley emphasised: “In our present life we have a foretaste of our risen life in Christ and we are called to live it day by day by responding to God’s grace at work within us, through the scriptures, in the sacraments, through the prayers of faith and in our good works.
“We experience many passing moments of re-awakening, when glimpses of the goodness and glory of God’s Kingdom break through the ordinary events of each day – when we catch a reflection of God’s Kingdom in the words and gestures of faith-filled people.”
Archbishop Longley continued: “One of those faith-filled people whose influence we continue to feel today is Blessed John Henry Newman. His beautiful poem The Dream of Gerontius depicts the re-awakening of a sinful yet faithful soul at the point of experiencing the risen life of Christ. Gerontius reflects:
I went to sleep; and now I am refreshed,
A strange refreshment: for I feel in me
An inexpressive lightness, and a sense
Of freedom, as if I were at length myself,
And ne’er had been before.
Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded his thoughtful homily: “Cardinal Newman helps us to see that when we rise to new life in Christ, through our baptism into his death and resurrection, we only then begin to find our real identity and our true path ahead.
“Every Easter re-orients our pathway and casts its new light upon our footsteps. Then, re-awakening and adjusting our eyes to the brilliance of his light, we set our sights once again on him, the risen Lord.”