Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reflections on the Vigil

We had a marvelous vigil Saturday night. Got started a bit after the 7 pm listed time, because instructions were still being given to the subdeacon/candle bearer, the book bearer, the torch bearers, the crucifer, and the server, as well as to our four confirmands. But hey, it's only in America that people get really uptight about starting on time anyhow. I think the 15 minute delay adds to the sense of anticipation that should go with this grand event. So finally we appeared at the doors, where a large crowd was gathered outside and the fire already started. I gave a few instructions (most especially because we now have kneeling pads which people need to know how to use -- and that's another success story here, how it was the people who wanted them, and how their use arose out of their own piety -- and how, if you have bad knees, and don't want to stand out (literally, as it happens) when everyone else is kneeling, you can sit on the edge of your pew, leaning forward, to simulate a sort of 'kneeling'. Anyhow, then we went through the blessing of the fire, the candle ceremony, and finally the long procession into the building and down a long darkened hallway into the church. Finally, when everyone was in place, and all the hand-candles were lit hand-to-hand, the Exultet was intoned (I think that's my favorite part).

This year for the first time the choir also participated in the event, and was in top form. No organ was used; as it had gone silent from the Maundy Thursday stripping and was not used throughout Good Friday. So the choir led the chanting of the Benedicite Omnia Opera, beautifully, in four part harmony. I recalled my time in Russia, only here, I could understand the words. The confirmations were also solemn and joyous.

Then at last we turned up the lights, sang the Gloria, and the bells were rung, as the organ played.

No Church Growth nonsense in play here. And you know, when weighed against this sublime ceremony, that trash is shown to be the truly abominable sacrelige it is.

1 comment:

Rev. Benjamin Mayes said...

Your vigil sounds like it was a wonderful event. Here at Our Savior Church, Grand Rapids, we got our vigil started right around 7:00. But it always seems funny to celebrate the vigil at 7:00 after the time change. The sun is still blazing high in the sky, and we're inside singing, "This is the night..." We joked about changing it to, "This is the afternoon when the Lord brought our fathers out of Egypt..." Oh well. As I understand it, for hundreds of years the Roman Church celebrated the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday morning or afternoon. 7:00 is better than that, at least.