Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Saturday: The Easter Vigil

I just got out of the Easter Vigil service, so even though it is not yet midnight, I feel free to wish you all a Happy Easter!

The Easter Vigil is the most beautiful service of the year. It's about two hours long - at least, it was tonight - but it's well worth it. If you've not been to one before, they start in the dark. We process into church in the dark, and we sit in the dark, each of us with a lit candle. Scripture verses about the Lord's miracles and good works through time are read, and psalms and canticles are sung. In the early church, this was the only night of the year on which baptisms were performed, and a friend of mine was indeed baptized tonight (hooray!). Then, the priest proclaims that the Lord is risen, and all the lights come on, and we have a regular Eucharist complete with happy hymns and, for the first time in months, shouts of "Alleluia!" I can think of no moment more beautiful than the Easter Vigil Communion hymn, "I Am the Bread of Life." Jerry is a master at the organ, the hymn is an absolutely perfect song (as campus minister Andy would say), and you get Episcopalians, of all people, raising their hands to God. Plus, I've never seen Father Henry beam so much. It is sheer beauty, for the glory of God, and I'm glad it only comes once a year, for it is truly special. What an amazing hymn - the words, the melody, the harmony. I choke up at the grace.

The sermon, from the Rev. Louise P. Pietsch, was a good one worth writing about here. She quoted an article from Christian Century magazine, but sadly, the author's name I have forgotten. He wrote about two men yelling across a distance to one another shortly after that first glorious Easter:
1: "Yo!"
2: "What?"
1: "Are you there?"
2: "Yeah, what's the news of the day?"
1: "He is Risen!!!"
2: "No... oh no... oh no... He can't be risen! That means the suffering isn't over, that the teaching continues, that more of the same path lies ahead! We're not off the hook!"

Christ is alive and well, which means His mission and His message are alive and well, too. He didn't stay dead, and neither did the teachings and the wisdom he brought with Him. And that, my brothers and sisters, is why I write about New Orleans. It's why William Wilberforce and Robert Kennedy are my heros. It's why prison reform and international issues like the sex trade, the caste system, corrupt governments, and AIDS are next. Easter gives us no choice.

There are a number of collects and prayers associated with the Easter Vigil, but here's the one for the lessons of the day, not the special liturgy: "O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the
coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

On another note, this is the one hundredth post of Wayward Episcopalian. Go me, I guess! :P

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