Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Vigil - recap

Wow!  What a great evening of worship.

How great it was to see so many parishioners joining our Elect - Justin, Joanna, Jessica, Robert and Bill - in the celebration of the sacraments.  Our parish, and our Church, continues to attract people who find Christ alive among us.

Seeing all our priests concelebrating the Triduum is to realize how blessed our parish truly is. Where will you find four priests in one parish today?  How great to see Fr. Joe P (our pastor), Fr. Paul, Fr. Joe F. and Msgr. Fran vested and concelebrating Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.  Our priests and deacon gathered together for Evening Prayer before the Vigil too.

The musicians again rose to the unique challenges of the Vigil Mass - responses, Exsultet, Psalms, Gloria, Alleluia, hymns and inspired songs.  I was reminded of that quote attributed to St. Augustine: "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!" Thanks Glen, cantors, choir and instrumentalists!

Our four lectors proclaimed God's word with passion tonight.  They led us through a biblical tour of salvation history from Exodus through St. Paul. I love hearing the Bible read by people who take it seriously. I can tell how deeply they love God's word.

Our eight altar servers - Ben, Tory, Maria, Jennifer, Chelsea, Jesse, Devon and Liza - did a fantastic job!  Each of them had a special task tonight - incense, thurible, book, gifts, preparation of the altar, handwashing and preparing the altar for the Elect. They looked great in the procession too, lighting people's candles along the way.

Lots of behind the scenes workers too - two in particular need to be recognized: Suzy for decorating the Church so well and John Flynn for taking care of the fire, candles, lights and clean up.  They have both been doing these behind the scenes things for years and they do them extraordinarily well.  John even had a "plan B" in place in case the rain/wind kept us from going outside! Thanks also to Debbie Hynes for taking care of the reception for the RCIA Elect after Mass.

Four Eucharistic Ministers assisted the clergy tonight with the distribution of the Precious Blood.   The ushers made people feel welcome and took up our collection.  They organized the procession with the gifts too, using the Elect.  Great job!

What a beautiful Church we have!  If you could not join us for the Vigil this year, please make plans now to be with us next year. This is truly the greatest evening of the year for Christians!

If you're interested in some "bite size" theological reflections on tonight's liturgy, just click "read more."
The blessing of the fire on a windy night reminded me of the presence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. There too, fire and wind were present where the Church was. We sanctified the neighborhood and witnessed our Catholic Faith to all who drove by.  They must have wondered what we were doing. Isn't that what people must have thought of the Apostles too?

The darkness of the Church was pierced by the light of the Paschal Candle. I thought of the scandals rocking the Church, how dark things seem, how mired in sin we are.  But good will prevail!  I wonder how many thousands of deacons have sung "Christ our Light!" throughout our history.  I know that none of them meant it as much as I did tonight.

The altar servers couldn't wait to light people's candles!  Sometimes they even got ahead of the Paschal candle in their exuberance.  I thought of Jesus' remarks that the Kingdom belongs to such as these; do not get in their way. How authentic their faith! I love having young people surround our altar and lead our processions. I wondered what memories that will have of this holy night.  Sadly, I never attended the Easter Vigil as a child, but came to it much later in life.  Once again the young people of this parish are well ahead of me spiritually.

The Exsultet reminds me of a deacon's role as announcer.  I get to announce the command to REJOICE!  I command the heavens, the earth and the Church to rejoice tonight! I paused a little when I sang to the Church and I hoped some of the Faithful realized how often I address them as "Church" in my homilies.  I sang these three "rejoice"s on Gaudete Sunday as part of a homily.

Then the Hebrew Scriptures.  Exodus.  I recall reading that one Talmud commentator wrote "the whole Torah is Exodus - all the rest is commentary!"   There would be no Vigil without Exodus.  The connections with Christ are numerous and profound.... release from bondage, promised land, savior, water, the people of God... Liturgically, it's a "must read!"

The Psalms are always important to me [don't forget about our ongoing Parish Psalm Project on our website, under Liturgy!], but Psalm 42 is especially important for those being baptized.  The image of a deer longing for living water is an obvious baptismal "rereading."

St. Paul's Epistle profoundly connects baptism, burial and new life in Christ.  Luke's Gospel account shows the prominent role of women followers of Jesus.  I thought of the many amazing women disciples in our parish as I proclaimed it today.  I thought of Johanna, mentioned in this Gospel, because one of the Elect had the same name as well as Justin's friend who joined us tonight and for the Rite of Election with Bishop Kmiec on the First Sunday of Lent.

Fr. Joe's Homily picked up on the "puzzlement" of the women.  He related it to his younger days of doing jigsaw puzzles.  He noted how others help us work through puzzles, literally and metaphorically.  The connection to the Church was obvious.  We must help one another understand the mystery of the resurrection. As a homilist, I know how difficult it is to preach on these "big days."  It's always a good thing to give the faithful something they can think about later, a puzzle to solve if you will, on Easter and Christmas, since the basics of the solemnities are so well known.

Then the sacraments of initiation! How great to see an adult baptized in our Church.  We just don't get to see that often because so many of us are baptized as infants.  Justin was clothed in a white garment immediately after - we added that aspect of the Rite this year. I see the progress our parish RCIA program is making every year. It's fun to be up close during the Confirmations.  Again the role of the Holy Spirit came to mind.  Watching Justin, Bill and Robert join us for the Eucharist for the first time was amazing too.  As one of their RCIA teachers, I knew how much they wanted to receive our Lord in Communion.  Nothing says that they are one of us more than joining us in Holy Communion!  How Catholic they must have felt; and rightfully so!

At the end of Mass it's still moving, after all these centuries, to sing the ancient melody "Ite missa est, Alleluia!"  Msgr. Fran said "I've waited all year to hear that!"

There is so much more to write about as I digest tonight's liturgy. I realize how often I use exclamation points when I write about my Faith.  I make no apologies for that.  I see the world that way thanks to my Catholic Faith. God wrote the world with plenty of exclamation points. The Easter Vigil is the Church's big liturgical exclamation point!

So rejoice Church!  Again I say, Rejoice!!