For the last 7 years or so I have helped with the liturgy for the Easter Vigil at my parish. I love helping with this liturgy. Their is so much going on! Baptisms, confirmations, first communions and the history of the the Church all rolled into one. When I went to my first Vigil some 10 years ago it was the beauty and drama that caught my attention.
The church was filled with flowers and banners and the choir was singing “Horse and chariots are cast into the sea!” and the night starts outside with a fire. Even to a secular eye their is allot going on – I remember thinking “this is like a Cecil B DeMille movie or an opera!”
The history of the world unfolds in the readings. Present day new Catholics are welcomed into the church. The culmination of the last three days is given its context.
But their is such paradox and depth and mystery. Every year I try to understand it more.
Their is always something that surprises me in this liturgy, this year it is the line from the Exulet.
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
Happy fault and necessary sin?
I went on line to read Pope Francis’ homily for Easter Vigil to look for insight. He speaks of the surprises too, but he speaks of the surprise of the women as they entered to tomb.
“We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”
I understand the fear – the fear of newness. When I come on the unexpected I become fearful. I want to control and if I can’t control the situation I usually lash out at those closes to me. When I left the Easter Vigil on Saturday night (well close to Sunday morning) My plans were set for the next day. Family to church in the morning, Easter brunch at my sister’s house followed by driving my children back to their perspective colleges.
But something unexpected happened.
My husband got a call in the middle of the night. His father was dying and he left to be at his bedside. Suddenly, our world turned topsy turvy.
My father in law died on Easter in the afternoon. Pope Francis words came to me.
“We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”
The Easter Vigil, like every Mass is meant to remind us,
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6)
As I tried to find the words to comfort my mother-in-law and my husband, those words of the angels came to mind.
This isn’t the blog post I intended to write. Things happened and we deal with the unexpected.
A little about my father in law.
Bob was once asked to a tryout for the Yankees baseball team, but declined the invite because of various complications. I think their were times in his life that he regretted that he didn’t try.
In the last few days of my father-in-law’s life he was asked, “Bob, if you get better what are you looking forward to doing?”
In those moments when a person is ill and the life here and our past seems to merge in our minds, Bob replied “Play Ball.”
The days and months ahead will be filled with grieving for Bob. The thought though comes to mind that if we truly believe the Easter story, we wouldn’t be sad.
If we believe in the resurrection Bob will get to “Play ball.”
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.