31 March 2018

‘Very early on the first day of
the week, when the sun had
risen, they went to the tomb’

Mary Magdalene at Easter … a sculpture by Mary Grant at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Saturday 31 March 2018

Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale

8 p.m.: The Easter Vigil and the Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2)

Readings: Exodus 14: 10-31, 15: 20-21; Psalm 114; Romans 6: 3-11; Mark 16: 1-8.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

In our Gospel reading this evening (Mark 16: 1-8), we are told that on Saturday night, after sundown, ‘when the sabbath was over,’ Mary Magdalene, a witness to Christ’s death and burial, and others buy spices to anoint Christ’s body. Because he died only hours before the Sabbath, there was no time to anoint it before he was buried. Buying spices on the Sabbath was permitted, but not aromatic oils and salves used for burial preparation.

Early on Sunday morning (‘the first day of the week,’ verse 2), they go to the tomb, wondering who will roll away the heavy disk-shaped ‘stone’ (verse 3) that has been used as a door. A tomb was cut out of the rock, and the stone ran in a track. But they find the tomb open (verse 4) and realise what the empty tomb means: ‘he has been raised’ (verse 6).

Inside the tomb, the ‘young man, dressed in a white robe’ (verse 5) is a heavenly messenger. He probably sits on a shelf intended for a body. It is the faithful women who first hear the Easter message.

The angel tells them to inform Saint Peter and the Disciples that Christ ‘is going ahead of’ them, and that he will appear to them in Galilee, just as he told them during his earthly ministry (verse 7). The women flee, seized with ‘terror and amazement’ (verse 8) and overcome with awe.

We are left in anticipation, waiting.

This waiting and anticipation is marked by terror and amazement at the end of this reading, and later in this chapter by disbelief. Twice we are told ‘they would not believe it’ (verse 11), ‘they did not believe it’ (verse 13).

The longer ending of Saint Mark’s Gospel then tells us that Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene, but the disciples would not believe them (verses 9-11). He then appears to two walking in the countryside, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Saint Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 24: 13-35). But when they go back and tell the rest, they still do not believe (verses 12-13).

Later in the day, the Risen Christ appears to the eleven remaining disciples, as they are sitting at the table, sharing a meal. Now, when they see him they believe Christ is Risen, a new beginning is dawning (verse 14).

The Living, Risen Christ is met at the table, at the shared meal, at the feast, at the banquet.

In our Easter Eucharist, our Easter Communion, this evening, be prepared for an encounter with the Living Christ, to meet the Risen Christ.

It is there the Disciples are gifted with a new sense of confidence, their faith is renewed, and they go out and they are given the courage and the commission to proclaim the good news everywhere (verse 20).

Christ is risen. Alleluia!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the Eater Vigil on 31 March 2018

The Empty Tomb … a fresco in Saint John’s Monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 16: 1-8 (NRSV):

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

An Easter theme in a window in the gallery in Holmpatrick Church, Skerries, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White (or Gold).

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter Day):

Almighty God,
through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
you have overcome death
and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
Grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you.
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).


Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Living God,
for our redemption you gave your only-begotten Son
to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
you have delivered us from the power of our enemy.
Grant us so to die daily unto sin,
that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:


God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!


652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us.
258, Christ the Lord is risen again!
255, Christ is risen, Alleluia.

The Resurrection depicted in the Foley window in Saint Mary’s Church, Nenagh, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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