I have a feeling I know what Heaven just might be like. Give or take. I went to the Easter Vigil tonight (uh, last night as I started this post yesterday) at my parish and it was the most beautiful Mass I've ever been to. The Novena Masses in the Summer may actually be a close second. This Mass blew me away. It was three and a half hours but the most amazing three and a half hours I've ever witnessed.
I thought I was early and was a bit surprised to find myself fumbling around the dark church looking for a seat. There were ministers of hospitality standing with flashlights guiding the way. I ended up sitting not in my usual spot but by a woman whom I'd met at Mass on Tuesday. She is a friend of my friend so I took the last seat in the pew.
Finally it was time to start and so we began to proceed outside to light the bonfire. It was a chilly night so the heat of the fire felt good. As the priest blessed the fire, I found myself overjoyed to be there, in the moment. Finally the Easter candles were lit, then we processed inside again in darkness. Starting with that Easter candle, that light in the darkness began to grow. Although, the church wasn't packed to the seams, it was crowded. I'm guessing maybe 900 people were there and slowly our church was bathed in the soft, flickering light of the candles. It was the most beautiful sight I'd seen Our church is sloped and kind of in the round, so you can see everyone and everything. That's why I can't believe that people have the audacity to show up late on Sundays. Father and the deacon can see everything from their spot.
So, the church was lit up in candlelight. I hated to blow out mine but for the readings we sat there in darkness. I'd never felt the church so still and quiet before. It was amazing. As the Word was proclaimed, I really listened to what was being said. The readings from the Beginning of the World through the Exodus to the Resurrection captivated me. It was like a whole history of our faith was given to us, the psalms were arranged beautifully and the music, it was gorgeous. None of the sappy, happy stuff, that the choir seems to sing week after week. Speaking of singing beautifully, our priest sang most of the Mass. There was also a lot of incense.
Once the lights came on, the gospel proclaimed, Father moved to the baptismal font, he blessed the pascal candle, we renewed our Baptismal vows and he prepared to baptize four adults and about 7 children probably between 5-13. One of the children cried and screamed. It tugged at my heartstrings. I hope he or she isn't too traumatized. For the baptisms there was a video camera projecting what was going on in the font so we could see from our pews. Our baptismal font is beneath ground near the entrance of the church, so it's hard to see in places. For the Vigil it's open and left open till the end of the season. It was really neat to watch all these new people joining the church, though I'm glad that I was baptized as a baby. We welcomed 3 maybe 4 new people into the church and there were about 20 young adults receiving confirmation. I think this shows we have a thriving and growing parish.
While they were getting changed into dry clothes, including Father, one of our two deacons gave a rather passionate and wonderful homily. He started with talking about a broken heart and unrequited love, then segued into God's love and how immense it is for all of us. That we can be certain of that love, that we can trust Him. He talked about this season and how He shows his love. It was a good homily, but I can't do it justice in my retelling. I was just really impressed by him. Our deacons rarely have the opportunity to give a homily.
Then the newly baptized returned looking all shiny and new. Father came in dressed and it was time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The preface to the Roman Canon was beautiful. I should look it up but ugh. I don't have time right now. The newly baptized, confirmed and members of the church were given First Communion, as well as the others who had yet to receive. Then, it was over.
Those are my thoughts at the moment. they're not really reflections, but a play by play of the event. It truly was gorgeous.
And go read this piece by Father Martin at America. Apparently, he hadn't heard of the Easter Vigil till he was 28 and a novice with the Jesuits. Suddenly, I don't feel so bad myself.
Cross posted to my LJ earlier.