theology

Happy Easter!

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,“Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

– John 20:1-18 NRSV

He is Risen!

We just returned home from an Easter Vigil Mass at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, and it was amazing. I haven’t been to Mass since high school and have been really longing for some good liturgy as of late. (I’m not Catholic, but grew up in a Catholic school.) So we decided we’d join some friends at their church for the Easter Vigil this evening.

I was really nervous about going, mostly because new places with Bean as stressful, and also because I’m not big on places I’m unfamiliar with, especially churches with rules and such that I don’t know. It went really well though. It began at 8pm, but we showed up at 7:20ish to ensure we got a seat as it got really full. It ran for just over 2 hours, and things got a little dicey with Bean halfway through, but a little boobage calmed him down and we made it through the rest.

The Easter Vigil is split into 4 parts:

  1. The Service of Light: We all got candles (tapers) as we came in. The service started in the dark with the lighting of the Paschal Candle at the back (which is apparently done outside in some churches) and then the altar children walked up lighting the candles of those on the ends of the rows and we passed the flame down the pew. It was amazing how bright the church got with everyone’s candle burning. St. Ignatius is a big old wood and stone church with a huge arching ceiling, and there was something magical about the whole process. As we all stood there in the darkness, holding our candles, we sung the Exsultant, an Easter Hymn that sent chills down my spine.
  2. Liturgy of the Word: Next came the reading of scripture as we all sat there in the dark (candles had been blown out). There were 5 Old Testament readings and 2 New Testament readings. It was awesome to just sit there and listen to fairly large chunks of scriptures be read aloud. For the two NT readings, one was an Epistle reading, and the other from the Gospel of Luke. For the Luke reading they did this whole incense thing that I didn’t quite understand, and the congregation said some words and touched three places on their face. I didn’t quite understand it though. Maybe someone could fill me in.
  3. Liturgy of Baptism: The Liturgy of Baptism was my favorite part. There were 6 catechumens being baptized and accepted into the church, and it was an amazing ceremony to behold. The symbolism, and symbolic acts are just so great. I really miss that in the evangelical church. And while I don’t really care about immersion baptism or water over the head, I really liked the way they did it. The priest said something like “Enter the tomb of Christ and be reborn” and the catechuman would kneel  in the baptismal “tank” and he would pour water of their heads, in three separate pours in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    There was no reciting of their personal testimony either, which I really liked. They made it about the community, and the Church, and God, not the individual. I find when people read their testimonies it is all about them, when it should be about God and the church. Following the baptism they were confirmed with an anointing of oil and blessing of the Holy Spirit. It was just so amazing to watch these people publicly acknowledge their wish to enter the Church and into full communion with Christ.

    It is such a huge step, and an amazing decision to make.Following this we had our candles lit again, and everyone renewed their baptismal vows, and people walked down the aisles sprinkling us with holy water. I wasn’t sure about this since we hadn’t been baptized in the Catholic Church, but they read the Nicene Creed, all of which I believe, and I have been baptized, so it felt like a renewal of my baptism anyway.

  4. Liturgy of Eucharist: I wasn’t really sure how this would work, but knew I wasn’t supposed to go up and take host and drink from the cup, as apparently it is only for those in the Catholic Church. Now I don’t agree with this, as I think everyone who calls themselves Christian should be allowed to receive Communion, but I can respect their practices. I did watch the people celebrate the Eucharist, and while all took the host, only some drank from the cup, which I found strange. I wasn’t sure if it was just that they didn’t want to share a communal cup, or what. And after everyone was done, we ended with a benediction and song.

All in all it was an amazing experience, one that I’d love to do again. I’m so impressed that Bean made it through the whole thing, and that we made it through the whole service with minimal mishaps. We stood and sat when we were supposed to, but we missed the couple of times when we were supposed to kneel. I really loved when everyone said the Lord’s Prayer together. There is something amazing about that many voices lifting up their voices together in unified prayer. I realized how much I miss liturgical services, but I really need my modern worship music. I want to find a way to incorporate both aspects into church.

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4 thoughts on “Happy Easter!

  1. Actually, the readings are split into two:

    1. The Hebrew Scriptures retell salvation history leading to the moment of “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” The number of lessons may vary. Typically the reading of the Exodus through the Red Sea is always used, as it prefigures baptism.

    2. The lesson from the Epistles and the Gospel lesson are part of the Mass (Eucharist, Communion) service.

    What you saw at the reading of the Gospel was people saying a prayer. You make a small cross on your forehead, lips, and over your heart as a prayer to understand, proclaim, and trust the Gospel.

    The Easter Vigil is very similar in the Episcopal Church. Here is a link to an online version of the Book of Common Prayer with this service: http://www.saintgabriels.org/bcp/liturgies.html#285

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