Saturday, April 4, 2015

This is the Night

We have five sons that play with plastic figures all the time and make boy noises when they play. You know what this is, right? Even when big teens play with little brothers, they, too, make boy noises. Recently, a smaller son had a situation in the wood pile involving army guys and dinosaurs. He was happily moving things around and knocking things down when an older brother popped in and scanned the room. He brightened up when he noticed the wood pile drama and slid into place. “What’s going on?” he asked

He needed that knowledge before participating.  He had to ask the one who'd invented the 
Whole Thing.  Once the story was told, he was good. He could jump in. He could play hard. He could, as Saint Paul said, fight the good fight and run the race to completion. Sometimes the bad guys were avoided; sometimes they were engaged. Sometimes the good guys messed up; sometimes they behaved perfectly. They made happy sounds and agonizing sounds. Just like real life. We need to know the story, too. Whom do we ask?  Who created the Whole Thing?

Saturday evening, we will hear at our church's Great Easter Vigil Mass, seven Scripture readings and seven sung psalms chronicling salvation history ~ God's plans for the game. It is the Story of stories and the Feast of feasts; it fills the liturgical year with brilliance. It is ours to celebrate after the preparatory wilderness of Lent and the sorrows of Good Friday and Sad Saturday (our family name). Some highlights:

It begins outside as we gather around a fire to pray and sing.

“Light of Christ; thanks be to God.”
“May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”

We light candles from the fire and move into the candle-lit church to proclaim,

“This is the night when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.

O wonder of your humble care for us! O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly blessed night when things of heaven are wed to those of earth and divine to human.”

We hear the creation story from Genesis 1, “God said it was good” and sing Psalm 104, “Bless the Lord O my soul.”

We hear of Abraham sacrificing Isaac from Genesis 22, “Do not lay your hand upon the boy” and sing Psalm 16, “My heart is glad and my soul rejoices.”

We hear of Moses and the Red Sea, “Stretch out your hand over the sea,” and sing the psalm of Miriam from Exodus 14-15, “I will sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously.”

We hear Isaiah’s prophesy from chapter 54, “Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,” and sing Psalm 30, “Oh Lord, be my helper.”

We hear God’s love for His people from Ezekiel 36, “I will give you a new heart,” and sing Psalm 51, “A clean heart create in me.”

At this point, the bells begin ringing, the lights come back on, and we sing the Gloria, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will. Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, You take away the sins of the world.” A usual part of the Mass, it is not sung during Lent. It has been missed and sung loudly now
Then we hear passages from the New Testament.

We hear that Jesus dies no more from Romans 6, “Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus and sing Psalm 118, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever.”

And finally, the point of the Whole Thing, we hear of our Lord’s resurrection from Mark 16, “He is not here!”

Our first priest, when we came into the Catholic Church, timed it so that it was midnight by this resurrection reading and actually Easter morning. We loved it.

Then the baptisms begin, for this is also the night that those who have been preparing to enter the Church receive their sacraments. The huge stone cistern in the sanctuary sees a steady stream of people immersed or sprinkled. When our family came in, the priest had our three children, aged two, six, and nine in the pool together. The oldest boys did fine, under the water three times for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But when my feisty girl came up the first time and caught her breath, she hollered, “Get me out of here!” Our solemn priest cracked a smile and waited for the chuckling congregation to quiet down. He continued, “And in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit” by cupping his hands and pouring water on her head.

The Mass continues with Communion and Confirmations for the new Catholics and ends as usual with music and prayers. It is truly the most beautiful liturgy of the year, as it should be.

“Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in Your praise!”

Easter vigil, 2004, when the Howells became Catholic.

The happiest of Easter celebrations, friends!
Love, Allison

(Also printed by the Frontiersman.)

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