Sunday, April 4, 2010

Christ Our Light (Thanks Be to God!)

Is it wrong that when the lights turned on for the Easter Alleluia last night at the Easter Vigil that the first thing that popped in my head was: "Thank God! Lent is OVER!" ??

Ah, the reality of our humanity.

So I'm sure you all are wondering how my experience with the Easter Vigil was in LIGHT (see what I did there? ) of my 15 page paper ;) I'm so glad you were wondering! But first...


Let it be known also that the first thing I did AFTER the Easter Vigil was turn on some Gaga in muh car. I'm sure Jesus was rejoicing with me (despite what some religious protestors might say..."God hates Gaga?" No way, I say!)

Rather than re-write a whole new dissertation on the Easter Vigil, I submit to you part of my 'mystagogical reflection' from my paper. Is this too self-indulgent? Probably. But I wanted to share my reflection from last night:

I experienced the Easter Vigil at my parents’ parish in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. It is a multi-generational parish with a combination of the old and the new in both its members and its physical structure.

The congregation stayed inside as we heard the priest bless the fire from outside the Church. Doing this reminded me that in Easter Vigils past it had at times literally been too cold for us to go outside! But tonight was actually warm, and the heat from the fire only added to that warmth. Some lights were on in various pockets of the Church, but I was really struck by the light shining in from the outside through the stained glass windows. The stained glass windows in this particular Church tell stories of Christ’s life. Looking at them reminded me of the stories we would hear in the Old and New Testaments tonight.

An eager altar server started to light all of the candles in the Church as he no doubt usually does for Sunday liturgy. The deacon had to approach him and tell him essentially, “tonight the Church needs to stay dark!” I had to smile to myself. The boy was doing what he thought was right, but tonight is “different than any other night!”

When Father entered the Church with the Paschal Candle lit and chanted the words, “Christ our Light” it seemed like Christ truly had entered the scene. We began to ignite our candles from the light of the Easter Candle. Mine would not light! (the author will interject here: Go figure, right? Sigh.) It took two tries from the woman standing next to me. A couple behind me were also having difficulty. It seemed the fans were blowing too strongly above us! I tried to protect the light with my program and Missal. I did not want Christ’s light to go out!

The parish opted for the shorter Liturgy of the Word with only one reading from Genesis, Exodus, the Epistle and Gospel. Two Psalms and an Alleluia were sung. I was a little disappointed, only because I love the readings from Isaiah which so perfectly parallel Christ’s life. Plus, the drama of the darkness would have been carried out a little longer. But I was very relieved that the darkness was over when the Alleluia was sung and thereby Lent came to an end! The Church was now gathered in light. I was struck by how now outside was the place of darkness and the Church would be a source of light for anyone wanting to come in.

The priest in his homily defined the word “Vigil” as waiting for something to happen. It made me think: what was I waiting for this night in the liturgy? After Easter? He continued to say that we all have pieces to the puzzle. I liked that image of each us bringing our own piece to the Easter mystery. He also tied in that the readings from the Old and New Testaments were each pieces to this puzzle too and why we read them this night. Genesis and Exodus are stories of our history, the epistle brings the realization of our Baptism, and the Gospel- our Resurrection. Father also brought in that the liturgy “really recalls from the past, but Jesus is here now”.

There was one candidate for Baptism and one for full communion with the Church. I felt a little of what the fourth century Christians must have felt when the priest called the woman and she announced, “present”. For some reason, this just seemed for me very nostalgic of a secret, ancient ritual. He called her over to the Baptismal font and invited anyone who wanted to get closer to see “what was going on” to do so. I liked that he invited the community to be a closer part of this initiation. The candidate for Confirmation was called forward in the same way (to announce himself “present”) and I enjoyed witnessing a Confirmation and joined my prayers to the Holy Spirit as the choir sang, “Come Holy Ghost”....

Anyways, there you have it. My class has been emphasizing "mystagogy" which is essentially reflection on experience, so this was my own mystagogy of last night's Vigil.

I hope you all have an enjoyable Easter! I am carrying a phrase from this morning's Easter Sequence with me today: "Yes, Christ my hope is arisen".

Carrying the light of hope for one more year, kids!! ;)


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