Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermons for Easter Vigil and Easter Day: "The Modern World has no reasons to hope - Christians do."


Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, April 4, 2015)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

The Church invites us during this holy night to consider a great vista, that of the history of salvation. The key to this history is proffered as soon as the celebrant cuts into the wax of a candle a cross, the alpha and omega letters (first and last letter of the Greek alphabet), and the four numerals of the current year; meanwhile he says:

Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega. All time belongs to Him, and all the ages. To Him be glory and power, through every age for ever. Amen. 

The key is Christ, present to all times, present to each human story. The five grains of incense inserted into the wax are the symbol of the sweet spices that were poured into the five wounds to embalm and preserve the body of the Lord. The candle then symbolises Christ in His tomb.

From a blaze comes the flame that is going to light the candle and give it life. An image of Christ risen in glory, Who dispels the darkness of our hearts and minds, this candle will henceforth be placed on a high candlestick to preside over all offices of this liturgical time, as Christ presides over each resurrection.

The Vigil may then proceed as a great lesson of catechism that brings to mind the creation of the world, when God marvels at His work, the passing of the Red Sea, when He redeems His people from the bondage of Egypt and procures salvation for them.

If God marvels at His creation, what then will it be when He creates anew? The history of salvation entails our personal encounter with Christ. Christ’s salvation has reached me when I was baptised, and it must reach me anew today.

Each Christian is aware of his misery and unfaithfulness, and by singing the Litanies implores the prayer of the Angels and the Saints in Heaven, who live intimately united with God and who see Him, and who are our daily and loving companions.

As we renew our baptismal promises, we become part of and actors in the mystery. Christ’s victory has been our own victory, and it will remain ours. In Him we have vanquished, and we shall vanquish both bodily and spiritual death, if we have faith in Him and if we live consistently with His teaching. That is why we renounce Satan, all his works and allurements, and proclaim that we believe in God, the Father Almighty and Creator, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Ghost, and the Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

Yet, God’s mercy does not extend solely to Christians,

but also to all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, namely divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this Paschal mystery. (Gaudium et spes, n. 22)

St. Paul gives us in a few words the conclusion to the teaching of this night:

Therefore if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. (Col 3:1-2)

Living of the Paschal mystery is always exacting and unsettling, as Christ’s Passion was exacting and remains unsettling. Living consistently with God’s commandments, and especially being apostles of God’s charity and mercy towards our neighbours, towards those who have harmed us, means dying to ourselves to rise again in Christ.

On this holy night, let us ask for each other the grace always to live of the Lord’s Passover, the grace of a strengthening of our faith, the grace to remain children of God, faithful to the promises of our Baptism, open to the Passover of God in our lives.

Let us, as Mary, greet our risen Lord.

Amen, Alleluia!



Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, April 5, 2015)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

After a few hours of sleep, we meet again to celebrate our risen Lord. How many fears there are, how many questionings on this Easter morning! The soldiers who were keeping watch over the sepulchre are stricken with terror, whereas an Angel with a countenance as lightning, and a raiment as white as snow descends from Heaven. He has just rolled away the stone that was blocking the entrance to the tomb and that a few women, who were rightly so worried, could not have moved. The Apostles have not left their house.

Before human faint-heartedness, God keeps doing His work. What a contrast between the worries and fears of men, and the simplicity of God’s works! The liturgy reflects this simplicity both in its texts and its chants, and it thus invites us to hope.

To live to the full the joy of Easter morning means to rely on God for everything, it means to give up our petty schemes and make an act of faith. Our sorrows, our sufferings, our worries, are little Good Fridays, hours of darkness. Since the day when Christ died and rose, our Good Fridays themselves entail an Easter morning, too.

Whereas the world no longer hopes because it no longer has reasons to hope, it would be tragic if Christians should join the chorus of those who are bereft of their illusions. For Christians have no illusions, they have an unassailable hope. Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. God Maker, God Almighty, God Who has conquered death. Do we really believe that? Will the Lord’s Resurrection change something in our lives, in our behaviours? Our reason to hope is founded on a rock, Christ Himself.

Whereas we are full of joy, how could we not mention these men, women and children who were very recently savagely persecuted, beheaded and crucified in the Middle East and in Africa, on the sole grounds that they were bearing the name of Christ? Many of them would in their torments utter the name of Jesus, token of their victory.

Following their example, let us ceaselessly make the face of the risen Lord shine around ourselves, and let us begin by giving Him all the place that is His in our lives.

Also, how could we forget these soldiers, who at the risk of their lives and solely for the sake of peace are separated from their families and dedicate themselves in these faraway countries? May Christ victor of evil associate them to His victory and bring them back to their homes.

As children of the Church, do not let us allow ourselves to be misguided by deadly sirens, do not let us allow to wither in our hearts the hope that the everlasting youth of the Church offers us.

Whereas the Pope has proclaimed a Holy Year of Mercy, let us remember that openness to God’s mercy entails the preliminary acknowledgement of our own misery and our offering to our neighbour a merciful heart.

On the dawn of this Eastertide, I offer you as a viaticum these few lines excerpted from an address of Pope Pius XII to the youth of the Italian Catholic Action:

In the history of the Church there have always been difficult periods, especially fraught with troubles… Those who would then have gone by appearances would have deemed that the Church was in a dire peril for her existence, or at least for her work among men. In point of fact, indeed, she has always found there very occasions of progress…

Today, the world goes through one of its most critical periods… because of a progressive denial of the fundamental truths on which rest the divine commandments and the Christian conduct of life. It would seem that human structures make day after day harder for men the way towards knowing, loving and serving God, as well as towards their ultimate end, which is the possession of God in His glory and bliss.

Faced with such a confusion, such a hatred and darkness, the Church keeps a ceaseless watch with her light and love…

All men die, even those who seemed to be immortal. Human institutions crumble away, the most unexpected twilights follow one another. But the Church attends in utter serenity to every new dawn, and she is warmed up by the rays of every new sun (Pius XII, Discourse to the youth of the Italian Catholic Action, November 5, 1953, original Italian text in the Acta Apostolicæ Sedis, 45 [1953], p. 793).

Amen, Alleluia.

[Image: Easter Vigil in Fontgombault, 2011]