Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Glorious Easter Vigil Indeed!

As I mentioned a couple days ago, the rector of the Anglo-Catholic St. Matthias church promised a “glorious” Great Vigil, mentioning it was their chief celebration of Easter. It was glorious indeed!

Due to missing the right exit, I arrived only about 5 minutes early, and the sanctuary was packed. I could have found a pew seat if I wanted I suspect. But being the courteous guy I am, I decided to take one of the metal folding chairs in the side aisles. The sanctuary was completely darkened. The only light was coming through the windows on that damp night. In the night, I saw robed ministers run by outside.

As I had been warned, the rector methodically lit a big paschal fire in back. And from there, much of the service was candlelit. You couldn't miss the theme of light out of darkness.

The Exsultet was sung well. Really, I haven't even heard of it before. I found out I had been missing something special. I was quite moved. (And for those who watch for such things, there were bees in the Exsultet.)

After four scripture lessons on redemption with prayers, there was the baptism and chrismating of not a few. We relit our candles for this and there was a procession to the font in back. The baptismal liturgy was wonderful and unrushed even with so many getting baptized (about 15 I would guess). We all said our Baptismal Covenant. I like that. There’s something about firmly restating one’s Christian beliefs that’s good for the soul. Saying the covenant and the creeds fires me up somehow.

We then prayed over the candidates for baptism. By the way, many of the prayers were sung, including by the congregation. When we all together sung our prayers and amens, it sounded great.

There was a humorous moment when the rector blessed the font. When he lifted up the Paschal Candle to dip it in the font, he lifted it up too high and burnt a black spot on the ceiling. I kidded with him about that afterwards.

After the candidates were baptized, they were given baptismal candles lit from the Paschal Candle.

During the procession back, the rector sprinkled us with holy water using an aspergill (Look it up.). Then we sang the Litany of the Saints.

This was the one part of the service I could not conscientiously fully participate in. So I just stood with the rest as they asked every saint imaginable to pray for them. I’ve never heard of a lot of those saints. I might post more on this in the future.

Then was the Kyrie, always a favorite part of a service for me.

Then . . . the Gloria. That was fun. You see, the Gloria is not sung during Lent. So when it’s finally sung again for Easter, it’s a big deal. Well, as soon as the Gloria began, the lights went up, and there were so many bells ringing, I honestly thought it was a fire alarm. I later learned people bring bells from home to ring during the first Gloria of Easter. I think the kids especially get into that. Quite a number of people sure did! It was so loud, I gave up on keeping the tune.

That began the first mass of Easter. (Yes, they are very Anglo-Cath. They call it “mass.”) During it the scripture lessons were sung. And there was quite the ceremony about everything. I thought they used a lot of incense before then, but they really threw it around in preparing the eucharist.

But, hey, I like ceremony. As I told the rector as St. David’s when we chatted, I have low church tendencies in my beliefs, but high church tendencies in how I like to worship.

Oh, I forgot. I got a nice birthday blessing. They don’t skimp on those either. Although I don’t recall them using incense for that.

When in line, to receive communion, I made a point to see how people were receiving in front of me. Most took in the usual way. But I noticed a boy holding out the wafer. The priest then took it, dipped in the wine and put it on his tongue. I’ve received that way before, and it was meaningful to me. So I received that way this time. Yes, yes, I know that seems very “Catholic.” But I think the symbolism of that is very Biblical. I might post more on this in the future as well.

The service ended well with the organist joyously playing a Festal Postlude by Handel.

Then was quite a food-filled feast of a reception. After gentle prompting by the rector, I did a mild fast from Maundy Thursday (the first time I’ve done that for Holy Week.). So the food tasted that much better.

I’m not quite as Catholic as these brothers and sisters, but I greatly enjoyed the Easter Vigil with them. I’m glad I went to St. Matthias, and I intend to visit again.

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