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At cathedral’s joyful Easter Vigil, Cardinal Gregory encourages people to seek the risen Christ in today’s world

Cardinal Wilton Gregory baptizes Andre Gouyet during the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

A joyful Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., on April 8 began that evening with Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory lighting the Paschal Candle from a burning brazier outside the entranceway.

“May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds,” the cardinal prayed.

Cardinal Gregory lights the Paschal Candle outside the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., at the start of the Easter Vigil on April 8. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

Then the Paschal Candle was brought into the darkened cathedral in a procession, and light from its flame was spread one-by-one to flickering candles held by hundreds of people gathered there for the vigil, as a deacon sang, “The Light of Christ,” and people sang in response, “Thanks be to God.”

People hold candles during the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. (CS photos/Mihoko Owada)

The new life of the risen Christ and the light He brings to people’s lives and to the world was highlighted in prayers in the Mass and could be seen in the 14 people, including adults and children, who became full members of the Catholic Church during the nearly three-hour Mass as they received Sacraments of Initiation including Baptism, Confirmation and Communion.

That night at Easter Vigils in parishes across The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, 1,000 people became full members of the Catholic Church, receiving or completing those sacraments.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory in his homily reflected on that evening’s gospel account from Matthew 28:1-10, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary found Jesus’s tomb empty on the third day after his crucifixion, and an angel told them not to be afraid, that Jesus had risen and had gone ahead to Galilee. As the two women ran to tell the disciples the good news, they encountered the risen Christ.

The cardinal noted that the gospel accounts show how the risen Christ continually sought out His disciples and blessed them and gave them strength by His presence.

“But where is He now to be found?” Washington’s archbishop asked, noting that today “our hearts long to experience again the exact same Lord that brought such radiance and hope to that first Easter morning.”

Cardinal Gregory added that Jesus is present today “within the hearts of those who believe in Him, in the teachings of His Church and by the sacramental life that we now share.”

He noted that “those born into the life of the Church this Easter are wonderful examples of the presence of Christ in His Church.”

The cardinal said Christ can also be found on Easter Sunday when Christians gather as members of their families of faith in churches throughout the world. “Christ is always to be found in the midst of His people,” he said.

And speaking in Spanish during his homily, Cardinal Gregory said that as families gather for special Easter meals together, “there you will find Christ in the warmth of your homes and in the eyes and smiles of your loved ones.”

Cardinal Gregory said Jesus can also be found “among the poor, the hungry, the immigrant, the lonely, the aged, the oppressed and the sorrowful.”

Concluding his homily, the cardinal emphasized that “Easter is the feast that encourages us not to look for Him in a tomb or among the dead, but to remember that He always goes ahead of us – if we only dare to search for Him.”

Earlier, Scripture readings at the Mass in Spanish and English included the creation account from Genesis, and a dramatic sung passage from Exodus recounting how God brought the Israelites to freedom from slavery when the Red Sea engulfed the pursuing Egyptian charioteers. After readings by the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, the church was illuminated again and the candles were lit in the sanctuary, and the cathedral’s Schola Cantorum choir sang a soaring “Gloria.” The following a reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, the choir led the congregation in singing the joyful “Celtic Alleluia,” and then the Gospel account of the empty tomb and the women’s encounter with the risen Christ was read.

A sign of new life in Christ at the Easter Vigil at St. Matthew’s Cathedral came when seven people came forward to be baptized by Cardinal Gregory. The Rite of Baptism included the singing of the Litany of the Saints and the cardinal blessing the baptismal water. Just before they were baptized by the cardinal, the elect made a profession of faith. Afterward they donned white baptismal garments and were handed lighted candles by their godparents.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory baptizes Nicolas Busch during the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

“You have become a new creation and clothed yourself in Christ,” the cardinal told them, adding, “You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as children of the light, and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts.”

Newly baptized adults and youth wearing their baptismal garments pray during the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

Later, they received the sacraments of Confirmation and Communion, as did six candidates for full communion in the Catholic Church and a woman who completed her Sacraments of Initiation by being confirmed and receiving Communion.

The names of the candidates for full communion in the Church were announced and they came forward and stood before the altar with their sponsors. Those candidates then made a profession of faith, saying, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

Stretching his hands over the candidates for Confirmation, the cardinal prayed that they would receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Then as he confirmed each of them, the cardinal said their names and anointed them with chrism, making the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

The congregation then applauded them.

In the photo above, Cardinal Wilton Gregory confers the sacrament of Confirmation on Rebecca Kinnebrew during the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. In the photo below, the cardinal confirms Aliye Garrett at the vigil. (CS photos/Mihoko Owada)

During the Communion Rite, those 14 people who had been confirmed moments earlier, including the newly baptized and the candidates for full communion in the Church, stood before the altar and received the Eucharist from the cardinal, and Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, the cathedral’s rector who concelebrated the Mass, offered them Communion from the cup.

The joyful vigil concluded about one hour before midnight with the cardinal offering a blessing to the congregation, and the choir leading the singing of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”

On Easter Sunday April 9, Cardinal Gregory will celebrate a 9 a.m. Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral that will be livestreamed.  

Later on Easter Sunday, Cardinal Gregory will celebrate a noon Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception that will be televised on the Eternal Word Television Network and livestreamed on the basilica’s YouTube channel that can be linked through the National Shrine’s website at