The New Fire and the Rebirth of Messia

At the time of the full moon at the Spring Equinox, the people of the Messiani extinguish all their hearth-fires and every lamp and lantern and source of light amongst them. They gather then on the hillside at midnight and in the darkness a Holy Man strikes the new fire from the rock of flint and with this a great sacred fire is made to blaze. This new fire from darkness represents, for the Messiani, the rebirth of Messia their dying god, and also the rebirth of the year and the coming of new life out of darkness and winter.

An image of the risen god in the form of a tall candle is then lighted from the fire to symbolise his return from the dead, and adorned with certain sacred signs by which past and future and all time is made to centre on this time and this place. Led by the flame of the image the whole throng then moves in procession from the fire to the place of assembly. As they go they take new flame from the image for their own torches and lanterns and they dance and shout the praises of Messia ‘the light of the world’.

When the crowd is once more assembled Messia is erected amongst green boughs and flowers and other signs of fertility and a Holy Man addresses it in song, bringing this Holy Night to coincide with the mythic nights of creation and of the birth of the Messiani people, the daylight night of the death and rebirth of God which, for the Messiani, is also the death and rebirth of Man. This is followed by the solemn chanting of the creation myths and other legends of the sacred story of the Messiani, always with the theme of darkness and the conquest of darkness by light.

Then, while two Singing Men start an hypnotic chant naming the names of the holy ones of the Messiani past, a great bath of water is prepared which is to receive power from the Fire and Light so that it will become the Waters of Life. Those who are to be initiated into the mysteries of the Messiani, must pass through this water, and, moreover, all the people are splashed with it, for they believe that this will bring them fertility and renewed life during the coming year.

The climax is reached with the common sacred banquet of the Dying and Rising God/Man. Now from Fire and Light and Water we pass to Bread and Wine consecrated and made holy, for in consuming them together the Messiani believe that they are mystically devouring the very flesh and blood of the Dying God: their bodies are thus made one with his and share in his new risen life. When this mystery has been enacted the entire throng, men, women and children, make their way to another place for cocoa and buns.

Herbert McCabe, O.P.


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1 Response to The New Fire and the Rebirth of Messia

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    McCabe comments states that the above “could stand as a sample outsider’s account of what goes on in the average suburban Roman Catholic Church on Easter night.”


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