Easter Vigil (Rom 6:3-11) Tonight is a night for stories, and I have a story to tell! Through the morning mist, Patrick and his eight companions made their way from the hill of Slane toward Tara. It was early May, the Day of Beltaine, the day all Ireland celebrated the return of green, of fruit and flower, of fertility in flock and fold and herd. But Patrick and his companions were not festive. They were afraid. For they had been summoned by Laoghaire (“Leary”) MacNiall, High King of all Ireland to his high seat at Tara. Patrick had defied the king. In the dark of Beltaine Eve, all over Ireland, all fires, all lamps, all candles were extinguished waiting for the High King and him alone to light the new spring fire in honor of Queen Maeve on her sacred hill of Tara. But Patrick did not worship Maeve. This year Beltaine Eve was also Pascha, Paschal Eve, the eve of Easter. And in the dark on the hill of Slane, Patrick had lit the Paschal Fire in honor of the King of Kings and Lord of all Creation. And in the dark of Ireland, Patrick’s fire could be seen for miles, even as far as Tara. Laoghaire was outraged, but he was not stupid. For his father’s bard, Ono MacEngus had had a dream, and, in that dream, from the east over the sea had come a wonder worker, a seer, a bard of surpassing power who had lit a new fire in the name of a new God. And that fire would one day burn all over Ireland and drive Maeve and her kind into the darkness forever. So Laoghaire summoned Patrick to come and tell him the story of his new God and his new fire. But Laoghaire’s druids, Luct Mael and Lochru, were jealous and determined that Patrick would never see the king. So they took soldiers and laid an ambush in a grove of oak close by the way from Slane. As Patrick and his companions made their way to Tara, they unwittingly drew near the grove. Suddenly Patrick heard an insistent but quiet voice, “Patrick! Danger!” He began to sing, praying a prayer he had prayed many times on the road. I bind unto myself today The strong Name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same The Three in One and One in Three. I bind this today to me forever By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation; His baptism in Jordan river, His death on the Cross for my salvation; His bursting from the spicèd tomb, His riding up the heavenly way, His coming at the day of doom I bind unto myself today. As Patrick sang, they all sang, softly at first, then ever louder, until they reached the oak grove and in a mighty chorus sang: Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. In the grove, Luct Mael and Lochru and the soldiers heard—but not the singing. They heard a crashing gale that rent the branches of the oaks and made them cower in fear. And when they looked to the road, all they saw was a flock of deer: a majestic buck and eight smaller deer that rounded the hill in full view of the grove and passed on to Tara. In a few moments these catechumens will step forward to the font and present themselves for Baptism. (speaking to the Catechumens) You will step into the font. And before God and His Church you will profess your faith and you will be immersed in water. And your life will change forever. Your old life will lie dead in the tomb with Christ on the bottom of this font. Sin – the power of selfishness and anger and greed and all the other temptations of the children of Adam and Eve – will be crucified with Christ and buried in His tomb. With Christ you will come out of the tomb, raised up a new creation. Sin and death will have no more power over you! The victory has been won. BUT!!! And here is the challenge for you – AND (turning to the whole congregation) for ALL of us who claim the Sign of the Cross. The victory has been won, but the dispatches from the front tell us that significant pockets of resistance remain. St. Paul tells us: As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. You too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. You have put on Christ; in Him you have been baptized! But like the prayer of St. Patrick, this is not a magic charm as if, by merely naming Christ’s name you get a free pass on all you do; and people will see, and hear, and think, and speak only of Jesus when they think of you. The prayer is a dare – a dare to you to live each day, to decide each morning and hour of the day -- to speak as Christ speaks, to act as Christ acts, to love as Christ loves so He shines forth in you for all to see. The prayer is also a promise – a promise to you that the One who is the Lord of all Creation, who made Light of sun, Radiance of moon, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of wind, Deeps of the ocean, Firmness of earth Also made you, and loves you, and dwells with you closer than your breath itself. Christos Anesti! Christ is risen!