Saturday, March 29, 2008

Easter Season

The blog has been a bit neglected lately. I've been posting occasionally for the Blue 2.0 stuff at work, but I'm getting behind on that too. Things here have been pretty busy lately: work is crazy, I'm trying to tie up loose ends from a responsibility that I just handed over, and I hired two new people at the same time so I'm occupied with lots of training.

Anyway, just wanted to take a moment to talk about our Easter. For the first time I attended an Easter vigil service. Usually I attend Easter Mass on Easter morning. That mass is a typical mass, just more celebratory because it's Easter. The gospel reading on Sunday morning is usually one of the stories of Peter and the beloved disciple running to find the empty tomb. But the Easter vigil is very different.

Easter vigil mass must start after sunset and it must be over before sunrise on Easter Sunday. I heard someone standing near me right before the vigil started tell someone else that in her parish in Missouri they start the vigil at 4:00am on Sunday morning! Ours started at 8:40pm Saturday night. This Mass begins outside where they light a liturgical fire and the Bishop blesses the Easter candle. It was very cold, but a very neat way to begin. Once the Easter candle was blessed and we started processing behind it into the church we started lighting the candles we all had from the Easter candle. All the lights in the church had been turned off, so our only light was from the candles, it was very cool.

Once everyone was inside and back in their seats the service started. The lights were finally put on again and the readings started. Unlike a typical mass which consists of an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament Reading, and a Gospel reading, during the vigil mass we hear seven Old Testament readings! They started in Genesis and moved through Exodus, Isaiah, and Baruch (and something else too, probably). In between each Old Testament reading there was either a sung Psalm or a moment of quiet reflection. After either the Psalm or the reflection there was a prayer and then they went to the next reading. The neat thing was that we read through a huge chunk of salvation history by reading so much of the Old Testament. You really can't fully understand the New Testament and the Gospels without reading the Old Testament.

Once the Old Testament readings were done the Bishop stood and we sang the Gloria. This was a little different. At most masses the Gloria is done at the beginning of Mass (for those who remember this from music history class: it followed the Kyrie in the Ordinary). The weird placement of it in this Mass was because we don't do the Gloria during Lent. Because the Gloria is the praising of the risen Lord, it is skipped during that period of 40 days of solemnity of Lent and brought back joyfully when we celebrate the risen Lord. So, it makes sense at the Vigil Mass to read through the Old Testament and Psalms, and then sing the Gloria before we read from the New Testament. Following the singing of the Gloria we had a reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans and finally the Gospel reading, from Luke I believe, though I can't remember exactly at the moment.

The Gospel reading was interesting to me. After years of only attending Easter Mass on Sunday I hadn't realized that there was a different Gospel reading at the Vigil. We read in the Gospel of the two women going to the tomb, finding it open and the angel tells them to go tell the disciples and tell them that the Risen Christ will see them in Galilee. Then as they are going back to the disciples, they run into Jesus on the road and he speaks to them. I guess I had never read this part of the Gospel before! I didn't think that anyone saw Jesus after he had risen until later. The reading just really struck me a lot more than it usually does.

The Bishop's homily was great too! I don't remember all the details but I do remember this one thing clearly. He spoke about how Easter is the beginning of the 50days of the Easter season leading to Pentecost. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the church. Thus, said the Bishop, if Pentecost is the birthday of the church, then Easter can be considered the conception and the 50 days leading to Pentecost is the gestation! Such a powerful imagine!!

Once the Liturgy of the Word was over we moved into the baptism of new members into the church. It was so cool to be there to see 7 new people enter into the church. The Bishop baptised all of them and then he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation as well. The entire congregation renewed our baptismal vows also. Again we passed around the flame from the Easter candle and renewed our vows holding the light of Christ. This Vigil mass is so beautiful and wonderful in so many ways. The entire life of the church is on display in so many ways!

After that ceremony we moved into the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The seven people who were just received into the church were now able to also receive the Eucharist for the first time! I can't even imagine how powerful and amazing it was for these people to be baptised into the Church, receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and receive Christ himself in their first Eucharist all in one day!! How incredible!

The Vigil Mass ended about 10 after midnight. Chris and I went home but weren't ready for bed right away. So we had some ice cream together and finally got to bed around 1 or 1:30am. Sunday we slept in and then went to Bardstown for Easter dinner. That was our whole Easter Sunday.

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter!

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