Rorate Caeli

FONTGOMBAULT EASTER SERMONS 2022 (Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday): “Christ is Alive! He Reigns!”

 Easter Vigil

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau 
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, April 17th, 2022

Concede nobis... cælestibus desideriis inflammari. Grant us... to be inflamed with heavenly desires. (Mk 16:6)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

My dearly beloved Sons,

In a most unusual and abrupt way, whereas the celebrant is still wearing a purple cope, a penance-coloured vestment, the great and holy Easter Vigil opens with a prayer pronounced on the new fire:

O God, Who hast bestowed on the faithful the fire of Thy splendour by Thy Son, Who is the cornerstone, hallow this new fire, produced from a flint for our use: and grant that during this Paschal festival we may be so inflamed with heavenly desires, that with pure minds we may come to the solemnity of perpetual light.


Living in truth the Paschal mystery means living a passover: passover from death, to a life consistent with the faith we profess; passover from a life of faith always too shallow, to a life of deeper communion with the Lord.

But to live in truth, we have to desire. He who doesn’t desire, in the best of cases remains static, in the worst case, goes backwards. The Church is therefore very lucid when she makes us implore from God a heart burning with desire. Already at the beginning of Lent, St. Benedict had invited his brothers “to expect the holy Passover with the great glee of an entirely spiritual desire” (St. Benedict, Rule, ch. 49, “On the Keeping of Lent”).

It would be quite faint-hearted, at that, to hope for this inner fire exclusively for the duration of the Easter feast. If there is a field where we shouldn’t do things by halves and should spare no pains, if there is a challenge we must meet, it is indeed that of our face to face encounter with the Lord, on the day of our ultimate passover, a day which will be for all, such is our hope, the dawn of true life, the life without end, eternal life. St. Benedict also recommends his monks to desire this same eternal life with all the yearning of their soul (ibid., ch. 4, 46th instrument of good works).

Through the celebration of the Paschal mystery, we commune with the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ, obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross, pours out on each man of good will the water that cleanses and purifies, as St. Paul teaches the Romans:

For we are buried together with Him by baptism into death: that, as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. (Rm 6:4-5)

During Passion time, we walked at the sound of the hymn Vexilla Regis:

Abroad the regal banners fly, Now shines the crosss’ mystery; Upon it Life did death endure, And yet by death did life procure.

Hail, cross, of hopes the most sublime! Now in this mournful Passion time, Improve religious souls in grace, The sins of criminals efface.


The regal banners are still flying. What would happen if we didn’t follow them? The Cross rears up on the top of Calvary, the risen Christ ascends from the tomb. Who will bow down before Christ and His cross?

For many men and women, God has become the Stranger. Only a few remembrances from a faraway past are left in hidden recesses of their hearts, which nonetheless still remain parched and thirsty. Yet, they don’t have the barest inkling that someday they will encounter Him face to face. God is absent from their present, and this present, which draws its nobility from His presence, has become cause for deep despair. Without Him, life no longer has sense.

During this holy night, the Church reminds us of the urgency to prepare our own encounter. The history of mankind, each of our own lives’ histories, are called to encounter Christ, Who has vanquished death and tomb. We shall sing tomorrow: “Life and death met in a prodigious strife. The Master of life died, He is now alive and reigns.” (Easter Sequence, Victimæ paschali)

Christ is alive, He reigns. Such is the victorious clamour resounding today. It will no longer keep silent. Even the darkest periods in the history of mankind, and in our own histories, too, vibrate with its echo. The victorious God’s present comes and encounters us. He is alive. He reigns.

Amidst the primeval chaos, God’s word was uttered: “Let there be light: and there was light.” (Gn 1:3) Again, on the day of our baptism, God uttered a word on our lives. We were the children of a rebellious nature, and called children of wrath. God offered us reconciliation.

Today again, God wants His light to shine, He wants to give it a brighter intensity, and renew us in faith. That which God created without us, He now wants to create anew with us. If our parents’ word before the baptismal font asked for us the grace of faith, it behoves us to remain faithful to our forebears’ words. Today, as we renewed the promises of our baptism, we placed ourselves behind Christ’s regal banners, to give a new youth in our hearts to a love dialogue.

God’s word is not exhausted. God has still much to tell us, much to teach us, provided we allow Him to speak. The so feeble, so tiny impetus of such a poor creature, a murmur borne in the deepest recesses of the human heart, will unleash the torrents of divine love, which will jostle, upturn, purify. The shrivelled hearts’ dryness will vanish under the flows of the mystery of divine love.

Today, the King of glory, the Victor of tomb, steps forward. He steps towards His Father. He steps towards men, gazing upon each of our lives. Near Lazarus’ tomb, the Lord had cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” During this night, Christ invites us to forsake our own tombs, those we have built for ourselves, and in which we are labouring under the illusion to be comfortable, those which oppress us, and which we would rather be rid of. Whatever they may be, they are our prisons. Let us die to our tombs, so as to rise up to Christ.

Regina cæli, lætare, Amen, Alleluia.


Easter Day

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Father Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault Fontgombault, April 17th, 2022

Jesum quæritis Nazarenum, crucifixum. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. (Mk 16:6)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 My dearly beloved Sons,

We have trodden such a long way since Palm Sunday! We may have been revolted by the machinations of those who, for want of true witnesses, satisfied themselves with liars. One of the Twelve preferred money to his Master’s love, and betrayed Him for thirty silver coins. Starting from the garden of the Agony, we followed the Lord in the narrow streets of Jerusalem, when He was first exhibited before the mighty, and then handed over by a weak Pilate, as an answer to the shouting of the throng, to be crucified.

The evil man’s heart is full of wile and disquiet. The last hours bear witness to that fact. The simple man’s heart is open to peace. Such is the peace the Lord brings His disciples this morning, and which He brings us, too.Yet, how shall we receive this peace in its fullness?

Let us enter the school of the disciples. If the path of Agony seemed a long one to Jesus, wouldn’t it have seemed even longer to them? He whom they loved was dragged from tribunal to tribunal, beaten by soldiers, scorned by the crowd. On the morning of this third day, the disciples are left with the remembrance of their own betrayals; that of Judas, who has by now rendered account of his deeds to God; that of Peter, the humiliated leader of a group of disoriented disciples, hiding themselves. All of them must have felt on this morning a more or less deep shame, as they considered their behaviours. Hearts were not in peace.They were tormented.

Neither did the women escape this disquiet. They had a last duty to carry out on the body of the Lord. How were they going to roll back the stone which precluded them from accessing the body? Would the soldiers allow them to enter?

Many questions, many problems, which won’t weigh much before God’s plan.

The gospel of St. Matthew we heard last night gave us the most detailed narrative of the holy women’s errand. As they come near the tomb, a violent earthquake shakes the stone blocking the opening. An angel coming down from heaven rolls back the stone, and sits upon it. The guards who are keeping watch, representing the power of the Jews on Christ’s body, are struck with terror and fall down on the earth.

The angel with clothes white as snow addresses the women, “Fear not.” How could they not fear? When Heaven invites itself on earth, when the elements rage, fear naturally pervades the heart of man: fear before the mystery becoming present, as on the day of the Annunciation; and also fear of the human misery confronted with God.

The angel’s words then become comforting, “Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.” (Mt 28:5) This is indeed the only condition to receive a comforting word from God. These words are the digest, as it were, of the Gospel. The greatest of sinners will receive comfort, provided he should truly seek God, truly seek Christ.

In the encyclical Dominum et vivificantem, St. John Paul II pondered on the essence of sin. For the Polish pope, sin appears as “a rejection, or at least a turning away from the truth contained in the Word of God, who creates the world.” (n. 33) Now, this creating Word is the Word of God Himself, messenger of the love of God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth. In a few especially strong lines, the pope taught:

Here we find ourselves at the very centre of what could be called the “anti-Word,” that is to say the “anti-truth.” For the truth about man becomes falsified: who man is and what are the impassable limits of his being and freedom. This “anti-truth” is possible because at the same time there is a complete falsification of the truth about who God is. God the Creator is placed in a state of suspicion, indeed of accusation, in the mind of the creature. For the first time in human history there appears the perverse “genius of suspicion.” (ibid., n. 37)


Once he has reached this point, “man will be inclined to see in God primarily a limitation of himself, and not the source of his own freedom and the fullness of good.” (ibid., n. 38) The Holy Father then considered the state of society, and concluded:

But the ideology of the “death of God” is more a threat to man, as the Second Vatican Council indicates when it analyses the question of the “independence of earthly affairs” and writes: “For without the Creator the creature would disappear... When God is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible.” (Gaudium et spes, n. 36) The ideology of the “death of God” easily demonstrates in its effects that on the “theoretical and practical” levels it is the ideology of the “death of man.” (ibid., n. 38)


Such is not the outlook of the holy women. They go to the tomb to pay a final homage to the body of a dead man, but they remain open to life. The angel is going to enlighten them, and entrust them with a mission. No one indeed receives light for himself only, but rather to radiate and pass it on:

You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen: He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee. There you shall see Him, as He told you. (Mk 16:6-7)


For the holy women, for the disciples, and for us, too, the improbable has come true. The dead Christ has risen, He is alive.

Still, we haven’t yet reached the end of our path. The apostles were invited to go to Galilee, a peaceful and idyllic country, which reminded them of the time of the first calling, the time of the simple and free exchanges with the Master.

On this Easter morning, the Lord calls us, too, to go to our own Galilee, to remember the first visit of the Lord on the day of our baptism, to carry out everything that is necessary to renew our heart to heart with the Lord. On this Easter morning, let us listen to the Resurrection angel asking us: Whom do you seek? Whom do you truly seek? Do you desire to receive the peace coming from heaven?

May Mary our Mother, she who always believed, lead us to the risen Christ, to the truly risen Christ.

Regina cæli, lætare, Amen, Alleluia.