…the neophytes, most of whom have gathered each evening for the last seven evenings since their rebirth in the waters of baptism, now attend the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist together. Each wears the white alb with which she was clothed at her baptism. This Second Sunday of Easter, long known as Quasimodo Sunday from the proper Introit, “Quasi modo geniti infantes…” rendered now as the Entrance Antiphon, “Like newborn infants, you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation, alleluia” (1 Peter 2:2), invites a focus on these newborns in Christ. The homily this day speaks not only to the newly baptized, echoing the words St. Augustine spoke to the neophytes in Hippo, “I speak to you who have been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness…the very flower of our ministry and the fruit of our toil” (second reading from the Office of Readings for the Second Sunday of Easter), but also to all those nourished together at the supper of the Lamb who, as missionary disciples, see the fruit of their own testimony blossom in those reborn in their midst. Together these newly initiated, our children in faith, will now also return to God the gifts of bread and wine they received through their participation in the presentation of the gifts.
This evening the neophytes and those members of the assembly who have joined them for our eight-day Easter mission, “Going an Octave Deeper,” gather for a final time for solemn Vespers then process to the baptismal font. The pervading image we use this evening is that of bread. The image of Torah as bread, the manifold types of Eucharist found in the Old Testament (see the first readings appointed for the Seventeenth through Twentieth Sundays of Ordinary Time, cycle B in the Lectionary for Mass), the image of bread formed from crushed grains bound together in water and fired into a single loaf, the Eucharist prefigured in the Passover and instituted at the Last Supper, given in the post-resurrection appearances, and awaited in the eschatological banquet to come are all explicated as an invitation for the newly baptized to deepen their understanding of into whom they have been reborn. As St. Augustine writes in his Sermon for this day and which the Church appoints for the second reading of the Office of Reading, “Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth…you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality.” The newly baptized have been incorporated into the Body of Christ which they receive, presenting themselves as humble gifts, overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and now sent into the world to be witnesses to holiness. We conclude this Second Sunday of Easter and the whole “Going an Octave Deeper” by having the newly baptized take off their albs and place them at the foot of the sanctuary, while we sing Psalm 118, the Communion for Easter Sunday. This Second Sunday of Easter was known in the preconciliar Missal as Dominica in albis depositis, namely the Sunday for giving up or depositing those white albs the neophytes presumably wore during the whole Octave of Easter in the early Church. These individual grains have, by removing their albs, taken off their distinctive garb, their husk as it were, and are now are sifted into the assembly of the faithful, a leaven full of zeal and new life in the one Body, the Church.
And may the “God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast kindle the faith of the people you have made your own, increase, we pray, the grace…bestowed, that all may grasp and rightly understand in what font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose Blood they have been redeemed. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever” (Roman Missal, Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter).
Excerpted from my article, “Going an Octave Deeper: a liturgical framework for post-baptismal catechesis or mystagogy in the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults,” published in the March/April 2016 issue of Pastoral Liturgy (LTP).