March 23, 2008

resurrection Happy Easter, everyone!

I’m just back from a marathon – and I do mean marathon Great Vigil of Easter Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church. The Great Vigil of Easter is one of the most ancient, solemn and joyful traditions of the Christian faith, and when done right (as is always done at Boston’s Church of the Advent), it can be an awe-inspiring event to behold. Historically, TGVoE is the first Mass of Easter, and a time the ancient Church welcomed new converts to the faith; today, in churches following the Catholic tradition (whether Catholic nor not) it is a time to make known God’s marvelous works in creation and His covenantal relationship with His people through the Old and New Testaments.

Now, some people might prefer their churches smaller and more intimate (and that might be all well and good at other times during the Church Year), but when it comes to TGVoE, lemme tell ya, bigger is better. The two times I attended TGVoE at “The Advent” (as the Beacon Hill Brahmins of Boston call it), the service was made all the more impressive because of the church’s incredible architecture and how dark they could make it inside during the Old Testament readings and the baptisms done by firelight. While SACC’s bright, airy, modern architecture works well most of the time, for TGVoE, while they made a good show of it, you can’t help but lose something in the translation. And when small parishes try it for the sake of the tradition (as I’ve witnessed it at my old parishes of St. Anne’s Episcopal in Billerica, MA and Christ Episcopal in Elizabethtown, KY) I’m sorry, but it ain’t the same thing, that’s for sure.

But no matter – if one is gonna quibble over the setting you’re missing the whole damned point of the proceedings, aren’t you? So, when it came to tonight’s TGVoE at SACC, there wasn’t any point in comparing theirs to others I’ve witnessed in the past: as Patriots’ coach and head cheater Bill Belichick is wont to say, “it is what it is”. Tonight SACC had over 50 – count ’em, 50! – baptisms, and around two dozen others received into the Roman Catholic faith – an amazing thing to behold.

What struck me about the way the RCs do their TGVoE (and in this regard, I have to admit, they have it all over the Episcopal Church) was the personal emphasis on baptism that could be experienced by everyone in attendance. Let me explain. For example, in the Episcopal Church, you simply reaffirm your baptismal covenant as part of the general baptism liturgy; at SACC, once the new candidates were baptized, the entire congregation was invited to come up and bless themselves in the new holy water consecrated for Easter. And it was amazing to me to see such a large and diverse crowd of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, young, old, and in between all processing up to the altar to bless themselves, just one day after witnessing a similar kind of thing – except on Good Friday it was to process up to venerate or kiss the cross. Some pretty cool symmetry at work there, I have to admit.

And the band did play “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” at the end. A nice touch, and, for me, a welcome traditional ending to a not-so-traditional Holy Week.

So ends the three-day Sacred Triduum – the holiest time of year in the Catholic tradition. This was my first time attempting to be a part of it (while not being able to be a part of it, if you know what I mean…), and I have to admit it wasn’t as positive an experience as I would have liked – I clearly still have some significant spiritual healing to do. Nevertheless, compared to my complete lack of involvement the last few years, better a bittersweet Holy Week experience than a non-experience, to be sure. I’ll post more on this tomorrow or Tuesday perhaps.

Jesus is risen! Alleluia!

A blessed Easter to everyone from the Goodboys and Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:11 | Comments Off on A Great Vigil
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