Saturday, April 30, 2011

Triduum and Easter

Triduum really marks a high point of the year for us -- even with four kids in tow. This year seemed especially good; there is a lot going on in our lives, spiritually as well as practically, and the whole liturgy seemed particularly meaningful. Holy Thursday was especially moving for me. I had been whistling the Tantum Ergo around the house (a little too jauntily, Starling kept saying) for several days. During the period of adoration after the service, I felt God's presence very powerfully, which is especially amazing considering I had a toddler in a sling and two impatient young ones at my side.

For as much as they disliked "too much church," the kids did really well at all the services, even the Easter Vigil, which went until 10:30. I like the Easter Vigil because it's so Catholic -- that is, so "smells and bells." God chose to reveal himself in the flesh, so it seems only natural that that revelation would continue in a physical, tangible way. I like how the church is dark and silent at the beginning of the service, just like a closed tomb. But then, there is a great light at the door -- the bonfire, representing the light of the risen Christ. The light enters the church in the form of the Paschal candle, and then spreads from person to person, until it lights the entire church. Each of us becomes a bearer of the light of Christ; all of us, together, become the Resurrected Body of Christ. And then the chanting of the Exultet -- 

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!
. . . 
Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God! . . . 
Hearing the words of the Exultet makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle -- because, notice, the words are spoken in the present tense. Just as we are truly participate in Christ's offering of himself during the celebration of the Eucharist, so we are also truly present at the tomb on the night of Christ's resurrection. It is all one moment.

And then the seven Scripture readings, tracing the unfolding of God's plan of salvation, interspersed with more joyful song.

And then we have the blessing of the baptismal font, and as we sing the litany of saints -- that beautiful invocation of our wider community, those holy women and men who have gone before us -- we all come forward to bless ourselves with holy water, a reminder of our own baptism.

Usually, we also have several candidates to be received into the Church. That any adult would want to enter the Church at a time when it is so widely and passionately scorned and ridiculed, and at a time when too many of our leaders lack courage and compassion, and sometimes are actually a source of pain (I'm thinking of certain dioceses suing sex abuse victims, for instance) -- that is a miracle in itself. And it is a reminder that although the Church is full of sinners ("I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners"), Jesus is still present in the midst of them -- just as he so often was when he walked the earth ("They asked, 'Why does he eat with sinners?'"). The Church remains the place where we find God made flesh.

On this particular night, we not only had half a dozen adult candidates, but also two children -- I'd guess their age at somewhere between seven and eleven -- who were baptized. Everyone holds their breath as the older child, the girl, is baptized; then her mother is gently stroking her face, and gently drying her hair with a towel, and another sort of water begins to flow (sounds of people sniffing back tears all over the church!). 

The kids held up well through all of this; Mudpuppy slept upright in the sling next to me the entire time, and Jaybird attempted to sleep on the pew. And when it was all over, we celebrated with cake and punch -- and I do mean celebrated. Everyone is so happy! Admittedly, the youngest children (and there are quite a few of them) are happiest about cake and punch at 10:40 p.m.! Bear did lean over to me at one point to say, "Now this is my favorite kind of Mass!"

Here we are, with our friend Laurie, after the vigil service.
Here are the kids on Easter morning. Notice Mudpuppy
peering over the table -- no candy for him! The kids also
each received a CD of good religious music.

Later in the day, we visited the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge,
where we saw many birds, including two wild turkeys.
And the best part is that we get to continue celebrating Easter for fifty days -- ten days longer than Lent, a point of sarisfaction for those of us who don't do well at fasting. :)

Happy Easter, everyone!