Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Return of the Alleluia

I love this song from the Shrek soundtrack.  It is the only soundtrack that I bought immediately after seeing the film for the first time--mostly because of this song.  While this song is very somber, there is nothing somber about the Easter season.  Somberness is reserved for lent.

In lent, the flowers on the altar become more understated or disappear altogether; We quit saying Alleluia before the Gospel reading; we omit the Gloria at the beginning of Mass as well.  Worship becomes stark, and it reinforces the idea that now is the time to fast, pray, and do penance.

And then, Easter comes.  Just as with many things in Catholicism, the order of worship reflects the feelings and tone of that part of the liturgical year.  This is why the Easter Vigil has to be my favorite service of the year.  It begins outside the sanctuary by a bonfire as the sun is setting.  Then, the Christ candle is lit from the bonfire while the Story of Christ's death and resurrection are briefly recounted through the Easter Proclamation.  Then, from the Christ candle, candles that each participant holds are lit.  Traditionally, the sanctuary remains dark for the first part of the Mass, except for the candles that the congregants hold.  Then, the Priest, as he is entering the sanctuary, says, loudly, "The light of Christ" and we respond, "Thanks be to God."  This part always brings to mind the verses from Isaiah 9:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone.
What I love most about the Easter Vigil, though, is the fact that the whole of the salvation story is recounted. There are 7 readings from the Old Testament that are traditionally read (although you usually only hear 4 for the sake of time), as well as a reading from the New Testament and the Gospel narrative of the resurrection.  Then, any adults that are entering the Church receive the sacraments of initiation (Baptism if needed, First Communion, and Confirmation).  I love this part, too, as it reminds me of when I entered the Church. 

On this night, we also sing/say the Gloria and the Alleluia for the first time in 7 weeks, and every time it makes my heart sing.  I find that, as we go from darkness to light, from fasting to feasting, from penance to praise, I am reminded of the verse in the Psalm 30:
For his anger lasts but a moment;
his favor a lifetime.
At dusk weeping comes for the night;
but at dawn there is rejoicing.
 And then, the Easter Season begins.  I love this, too.  For, Easter doesn't end with one day.  It lasts until Pentecost Sunday, and we officially celebrate Easter for 8 weeks.  What a blessing that is--to remember the joy of Christ's resurrection for longer than we were "rending [our] hearts and not [our] garments" (Joel 2:13). 

So, the liturgical year reminds me once again that weeping and rejoicing both have a place in my life.  Sometimes, like in the song above, I rejoice through my tears--and when I do, sometimes that rejoicing is "a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah".  For I often know that God has asked me to give up or has taken away from me those things which keep me from Him. In the process, I become better, more grounded, and ultimately, more like Him. May we grow closer to Jesus as we rejoice in this Easter season, just as we did in the fasting of Lent, and may we never lose sight of how much He did for us!