Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Saturday

The music that I have been listening to for the past two nights is by a variety of composers, not Mozart as I had thought. It is gorgeous and I will listen to it again this evening even though it is not specifically for Holy Saturday.

I remember waiting in the cold dark church while the paschal fire was kindled outside on a barbecue and the Paschal candle lit. The passing of the lights to the little candles held by everyone in the congregation is one of the most special rituals of the whole year. Trying to keep the candles straight up and not dripping wax onto one's hands is another very practical memory. The lessons, chanted during the vigil service, are long, reminding us of the long slow journey to salvation through Jesus while we wait, symbolically, for His resurrection. (Somebody usually quips that the length of the readings reminds us also that the pews we sit on are hard--the last penance for Lent!) Then just as sleepiness and waning candle light are about to overcome us lights come on, bells ring, the organ plays--if you are really lucky there might even be a tuba or a krumhorn or two. The celebrant intones, "Gloria in excelsis Deo," the words not sung for the weeks of Lent and the choir responds, "et in terra" and we are rejoicing. This is the shortest Mass of the year, I believe, and some pastors have the good sense to confine themselves to saying, "Rejoice. He is Risen. Alleluia. Happy Easter," rather than to try to take us on a post-midnight (and sometimes post-modernist) theological journey of discovery when what we want to do is sing our heart out and go home to our nice warm beds.

After two days of no Mass, the short Easter Vigil Mass is its own surprise and it ends with a snippet of Matins, "And very early on the first day of the week, they went onto the sepulcher and found it lying empty, Alleluia." They, of course, were the women, who had waited at the foot of the cross on Friday weeping until they could almost not see.

I suppose that one shouldn't have favorite parts of these great services, they do after all have a seamless whole. Still the Gloria and the Matins verses and the singing of Alleluia at the end of everything are my favorite parts of the Easter Vigil.

Deo Gratias, Alleluia. Ite Missa Est, Alleluia. These are two more of my favorite parts. The Liturgy is such a great gift of the heritage of Catholicism. This is a good day to give thanks for it.

Easter is a great gift of hope and joy to us who believe that Jesus has given us Eternal Life. Today we wait, hoping and expecting that tomorrow our joy may be full.

No comments: