It has taken me a few days to prepare my postings for Easter services. So much has been keeping me busy since last weekend but in a good way! I am going to be posting the individual events in chronological order starting from my last post on Good Friday. I hope by the end of this weekend to have everything completed and posted. Forewarning, this post is quite long. OK, on to my topic of Easter Vigil…
Ahh, Easter Vigil. It was glorious. I will never again miss an Easter Vigil Mass. It was so moving and so beautiful. The beauty is not only what I saw with my eyes but with my heart and my spirit. The air felt palpable with energy, like it was heavy with the Holy Spirit enveloping around each and every one of us. I was so moved to watch the catechumens and candidates taking their first steps into the doorway of the Catholic Church. I couldn’t help but have tears in my eyes. The conviction I felt when I renewed my Baptismal promises is still resonating within my soul. What beauty to behold!
In addition to the Easter Vigil Mass, there was more waiting for me when I arrived that evening that I could not have read in any Missal….
Easter Vigil was on Saturday, April 23rd. That afternoon, my husband, son, and I had gone to the movies and it went longer than we expected. My husband had decided to stay home with my son since I knew this would be a longer than usual Mass. When we drove up to the house I had to jump into my car and go, otherwise I was at risk for being late. I had no time to change because I was determined to not be late to Easter Vigil. I was a bit embarrassed coming to church in jeans but my overall look was nice and put together. (My mother is somewhere gasping for breath at this statement) I justified to myself on the way there, that many people at my church do wear jeans to Mass. I live in a tropical-like climate and the dress code is relaxed. OK, I learned that on Easter Vigil, they mostly do not wear jeans. I was mortified. I am a “dresser-upper” as I am a bit “old school” and I believe it is proper and respectful to be dressed up for church. Most people there were in suits and cute Easter dresses, while some were a little more casual, but not quite “jeans and cute top” casual like I was. UGH. So now I am a bit fidgety from my embarrassment and I am not quite sure what to do with myself and where I should go. Many people were standing outside the front of the church and the candidates and catechumens were lined up in the vestibule waiting to walk outside of the church. A lady coming out of the door handed me a candle, which I was glad to have something in my hands to help me with my fidgety-ness. I found a spot and stood there hoping I didn’t look too silly in my jeans. And I stood there and stood there…OK, nothing seems to be happening. I decided I wanted to find out what is happening inside, maybe I am missing something. I walk inside of the church and all of the lights are out and it is mostly dark except for what late evening light filtered through the jewel-toned stained glass windows. (The stained-glass windows at LF are so beautiful I could get lost in them, but that’s another post :)) The church looks very full and I went to search for a seat. Since I arrived close to the time of everything starting, I did not get a seat up close to the front like I prefer. I managed to find a seat on the far left side, half-way back. Thankfully, there were no 6’5” tall men in front of me at this point.
A few minutes later, one of the deacons announced that the lighting of the Paschal candle will take place outside and anyone wishing to view the lighting to come out front. Many of us proceeded outside and I wedged myself between a potted tree and the wall where I had a good vantage point of the priests and deacons preparing the Paschal candle. A lady whom I have become friendly with (I’ll refer to her as ‘Lady I’) came up and stood next to me and we hugged our hellos. I remarked to her how pretty her dress was and how embarrassed I was about what I had on. I had just said, “I am so embarrassed. We were late coming home from the movies and I didn’t have time to change and I didn’t want to be late.” At this point a woman standing on the opposite side of the potted tree, not dressed too differently from myself, I might add, turned around and said, “You sound like my husband.” ‘Lady I’ and I just looked at each other and instantly a puzzled look passed between us. Just at this moment, Fr.C began the Lighting of the Paschal candle. Ok, I admit I got a bit angry and annoyed by this woman’s comment. I tried to brush it aside and I have yet to make full sense of it since I am unsure of the context to which she was referring. Who knows what her true intentions were with that flippant remark. Hmmm, interesting how we can affect others around us, isn’t it? (I’ll be getting back to that question in future posts.) I was blown away by the ceremony and watching all of the candles being lit from the Paschal candle. Every flame held in everyone’s hands originated from the Paschal candle. It was like a wave of fire sweeping through the congregation. You could almost feel the power of the light from the candles – one by one the numbers of lit candles increased outward until everyone held a lighted candle. All of our faces were illuminated in the soft glow of the Paschal candle light. It was windy that evening and you had to be careful to protect your candle from the wind and to not let the flame go out. Mine did blow out and I was able to relight it from ‘Lady I’s’. Carefully, we came back inside the darkened church. As we made our way to our seats, there was a hush over the congregation, waiting expectantly for the world to come back into the light. It was so dramatic when the church was washed in light and Christ was declared risen from the dead. It took my breath away.
About 45 minutes into the 2 1/2 hour Mass, a group of teenage girls bustled into the church and packed in a pew together. During this part of the Mass there were more readings and which meant there was more standing up and sitting down than usual. (Before Mass had started, there was one woman who had exclaimed to her friend sitting nearby that there were eight readings this evening, which I confirmed in my Missal. “Wow it is going to be a looooong Mass”, I thought. It ended up only being four.) I think there were a lot of people in the church that evening who were friends or family of the catechumens and candidates, giving their support. Anyways, this group obviously was new to attending Mass as there was texting and talking among themselves. I got really annoyed by this. I started to stand on my tip toes so I could see anything up front or I tried to peer between their heads to see. I happened to notice that the pew behind me had plenty of room for me on the center aisle side. Yeah! I didn’t want to be rude and clamor over the people on my pew or directly behind me, so I decided I needed to go the long way around. I was a little worried what people might think of me moving to a new seat during the middle of Mass, but I couldn’t see, and the girls in front of me were very distracting. Discreetly, when everyone was standing during the reading of the Gospel, I whisked out of my pew, walked to the back and around to the open pew on the aisle. Ahhh, I could see!!
Ok, so why did I write so much about some things that seem trivial and insignificant? Upon reflection, I learned there were three lessons lighting my way into the doorway on my search for the Truth and the Way of Jesus Christ.
- Regarding the woman who equated me with her husband, you are always going to have people in life, even the ones you least expect, to say or do things that hurt or puzzle you. All you can do is try to see the good out of those situations and to pray for those people. I realized that I was making excuses, and there was no excuse for me justifying my appearance that evening. I should have been properly respectful before God. I learned humility.
- While holding my lighted Paschal candle, I could almost feel my faith in my hands. It was in my hands to tend and care for responsibly. If my neighbors candle flame went out, I lent my flame to ignite theirs. At the foundation of the Catholic faith, isn’t that what it is all about?
- As I stood in that initial pew, straining to see above and around the distracting group of girls, I realized I just needed to move to gain a better vantage point. Like the distractions in life, sometimes you have to take actions to gain a better seat to keep your faith in a straight line with God. For so many years, I have strained to achieve a deeper faith but I allowed the distractions in my life to overwhelm my need for a deeper faith in God. For so long, I was uncertain and, shamefully, embarrassed to take the actions I needed to gain the better vantage point with God. I can see now that my robes of uncertainty and embarrassment have been shrugged off and I am taking those actions to gain the closer walk with God.
I think these things happened on Easter Vigil for a reason. While others were officially becoming baptized and confirmed into the Catholic church, I needed to gain a better vantage point so I can protect and grow in my faith in order to be one of those humble people standing at the front of the church next year.
Wow, isn’t it unbelievable to see the Holy Spirit working if you just open your heart and your eyes. I never want to close them again…