Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter anthems

We used to call  these tiny white wildflowers now rising in the woods Easter lilies, although that's not their official name. Quite a contrast to the greenhouse variety, gilded with ribbon and foil, that are or soon will be decorating countless Christian churches on this feast day of the Resurrection of our Lord.

Some years, Holy Week begins to seem a little like a marathon --- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

After the Great Vigil of Easter ended late last night, we were sitting around companionably with friends, wine and food at First Lutheran. Easter breakfast there begins at 7 a.m. today. Might as well spend the night, someone joked.

Episcopalians are less sturdy than Lutherans --- we're having Easter brunch at 10:15.

The Great Vigil is among the most symbolically loaded of the rites of the liturgical church, commencing as it does with the return of light in the form of new fire to a dark church --- brought last night during light rain under shelter of an umbrella from the bonfire in the front yard to light the paschal candle, then the smaller candles we all carried into the church behind it.

The lessons fill approximately an hour, commencing as they do with creation and continuing through Resurrection. I was gratified to be assigned the Deliverance of Jonah (Jonah 1:1-2:1), almost as much an opportunity for a ham as the Valley of the Dry Bones, appropriated deservedly so for himself by Rich, the Lutheran pastor.

After the Gospel and the sermon (our vicar, Sue, managed that deftly in under five minutes), the great bell rang out and the "allelulias," silenced during Lent, joyfully returned. Then a baptism, incorporating renewal of our own baptismal vows; the Eucharist; and a triumphant concluding anthem.

We had by that time already given two rounds of applause to the young, very tall and somewhat embarrassed acolyte who succeeded in attaching with a pole after considerable trial the "He is Risen" banners to hooks high on the wall behind the altar in the now fully lighted church.

There will be more anthems this morning, but I've posted one of my favorites below --- a shape note singers' rendition of a William Billings' classic (No. 236 in the 1991 version of "Sacred Harp").

One of the points of shape note singing is that it's not performance art, but participatory art, so you're unlikely to experience a live group performing unless you're participating. Christianity should be like that, too.

The Light of Christ is present within us all, after all, and will rise perpetually within us and flow out in acts of love --- if only we open ourselves to grace and allow it.

The Light of Christ! The Light of Christ Indeed! Easter blessings.


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