Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Vigil: I get it!

After many years of attending an anemic Easter Vigil, I finally understand what it's all about (proving that it's never too late to learn).

Our Easter Vigil started after dark. The Rector appeared on the church porch with a medium-sized pyrex bowl, into which she proceeded to pour a large box of epsom salts. I was perplexed, standing in the back of the nave with the choir -- I had never seen this before. Into the bowl she then poured rubbing alcohol. Moving back from the bowl, she set it afire with a barbecue lighter.

Wow! The flames rose up. It was our Easter fire. The Rector blessed it and lit the Paschal Candle from it. Then she extinguished the bowl by putting on its lid, entered the church, and began the Exsultet. As we processed down the aisle, the person on the end of every pew lit a candle from the Paschal Candle, then passing the flame to his neighbor's candle.

The first half of the service, the reading of lessons (including my favorite, "The Valley of Dry Bones") and the singing of hymns, was illuminated only by our candles, the light over the organ keyboard, and the light at the lectern. I read one of the lessons, and found it so dark that I had trouble navigating from the choir-stalls to the lectern. But that made it all more poignant somehow.

After the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, the Rector suddenly shouted, "Alleluia! He is risen!" The lights came on, we blew out our candles, and the organ launched into hymn 207, "Jesus Christ is Ris'n Today," my very favorite hymn from childhood.

And I got it, after all these years. We listen to our salvation history in the dark of despair. Jesus is in the tomb. Hope is gone. We search for clues, for a ray of hope. And then we get the good news.

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Anonymous said...

The Easter Vigil is my favorite service of the whole year! I live for it, wait for it...

So glad it clicked for you!

"Thiiiiis is the night..."

"Rejoice and be glad now Mother Church..."


Padre Mickey said...

The Great Vigil of Easter is my favorite service, too. We baptized eight babies by candlelight; it was beautiful.

Check out photos at the Dance Party.

¡Feliz Pascua!

sharecropper said...

Easter vigil is my favorite service also. But, I always remember my Mom singing (or maybe it was a gospel sing) "Send the light, the blessed gospel light, let it shine, from shore to shore...." I always sang the lower notes and the refrains with her.

Hmmm. Maybe that's what I need more of right now - the Blessed Gospel Light!