Liturgy speaks for itself in both simple and complex ways. The prayers, the readings, and the actions all have multiple meanings, both simple and complex, while simultaneously pointing toward the same truth. The liturgy speaks for itself on this most joyful night when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. The liturgy announces this most glorious night in unequivocal terms with the magnificent Exsultet where we heard:
Hæc nox est,
in qua, destrúctis vínculis mortis,
Christus ab ínferis victor ascéndit.
This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
God's first words in the first verse of the first book of the Old Testament are:
“Let there be light.”
Thus, we began with light, blessing the fire and paschal candle that was carried into the church with the words:
Christ our Light.
Each of us held that light in our hands. From the Exsultet again.
Hæc nox est, de qua scriptum est:
Et nox sicut dies illuminábitur:
et nox illuminátio mea in delíciis meis.
This is the night
that is as bright as day,
dazzling is the night
and full of gladness
Soon I will bless the water and we will recall in ritual form the parting of the waters. We will recall the new life and hope we were given in baptism, a recollection augmented by renewing our baptismal promises.
Mark’s Gospel is cinematic in its detail. We know what the women were carrying. We know dawn was just breaking. We know their concerns about the size of the stone. We can imagine the amazed looks on their faces when they saw that the stone had been rolled away. Put yourself into that scene. Stand with those amazed, frightened and confused women. Had the grave been robbed? Where was Jesus? Who was the white-robed young man? What would you have felt? What would you have thought? What would you have said?
With the final blessing a liturgy of more than fifty hours will come to an end. We will go forth to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ our Lord. Listen again to the words I said while inscribing this paschal candle.
yesterday and today
the beginning and the end.
Alpha and Omega;
all time belongs to him,
and all the ages;
to him be glory and power,
through every age for ever."
We can only add:
Thanks be to God.
Being invited to celebrate the Triduum at the Abbey of Regina Laudis was a privilege and then some. After eight years a priest I finally celebrated the entire liturgy. The nuns have elected to cut nothing from the full observance of the great feast of Easter. Each day, Thursday through Saturday began with Tenebrae at 7:30 AM and continued until 10:00 AM or so, with chanted psalms and readings. Tenebrae is Matins and Lauds in sequence. After each psalm one of the candles atop the grille was snuffed out until the last one was snuffed and the book was audibly slammed at the very end.
The vigil liturgy was magnificent. The new fire was started using an eight-foot Christmas tree. Gas or some other fuel was soaked into the burlap wrapped around the trunk. It took a minute or so for things to get going but once they did the fire was impressive. The paschal candle seen below was 15 pounds of was. It was an endurance challenge to carry it in procession into the church. A nubbin of trunk was still burning when I left the church after Mass three hours later.
Though the rubrics indicate that four of the seven Old Testament readings may be cut for "pastoral reasons", after hearing all seven, I can't think of many good reasons to omit them. Whining that the Mass would be too long is not an adequate reason.
Except for the time from blessing the fire to renewing our baptismal vows everything was in Latin and, when indicated, chanted in Gregorian chant. I will admit that my voice was close to giving out by the end of Mass on Sunday.
Somehow the weather improved on Good Friday evening. Though chilly the sky was clear and, fortunately, the heavy wind that marked Holy Saturday, ended a few hours before Mass at 8:00 PM. The clouds rolled back in shortly after Mass on Sunday. The trip home was marked with some rain showers and a few areas of snowflakes. By the time I got home I was whipped from the physical demands of kneeling, lifting, carrying, kneeling, and so on. Next year I will go to the gym for Lent rather than giving up anything such as meat.
There are a lot of photographic opportunities in the men's guest house where the chaplain's quarters are located in what had been the chapel of the original monastery. One of the joys of post-processing in the computerized darkroom is making a photo look something like a Lowlands genre painting. A simple red candle, a pewter reflector and paneling says a lot.
The guest house is painted a brilliant red with white trim. The photo is a study in shape, texture and color.
Buds on a tree behind the guesthouse.
Each evening there is a reading from the Rule of St. Benedict as per monastic custom. This is true even in the guest house. The rule is kept in a slip case. I took this photo solely with the intention of turning it into black and white.
The paschal candle was 16 pounds of wax. Its simplicity was stunning. It was made and carved at the monastery. Some of the commercial candles are way over decorated. One year I had to force the second nail into what was Jesus' navel as there was a wax applique of the Risen Christ superimposed on the cross. Very bad taste.
The candle with the tray holding the stylus to inscribe, the incense to insert into the holes, the nails and charcoal for the thurible. The charcoal was lit from the fire thus the very long tongs behind the candle.
Many of the flowers were grown on-site. I don't know about the tulips but the orchids and others came from the small greenhouse (there may be a larger one elsewhere) in front of the door to the portresses' area. Some of the photos are from there and others are from in front of the altar.
Processional cross at cloister gate with flowers.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD