We observed the Sacred Triduum: the priesthood was celebrated, the Eucharistic Christ was reposed and the altar stripped, the Passion was sung and the Cross was kissed. Our liturgical death was complete. Then in the evening, in some places even at midnight, the Easter Vigil began. Flowers, instrumental music, white and gold vestments returned after a long drought of ornamentation. The Exsultet rang out next to the Christ-like Paschal candle, burning brightly in the shadows. Baptismal water was blessed. At last we again sang Alleluia. Catechumens were received or baptized, some also being confirmed. They received Christ for the first time in the Eucharist.
On Easter day we now hear the Sequence Victimae paschali laudes about Christ the “Victor King” and His duel with Death. Holy Church and her children are renewed in the promise of the resurrection. Since Christ has risen, we too may rise.
Here is the Collect for Mass “during the day” which has its roots in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary:
Deus, qui hodierna die, per Unigenitum tuum, aeternitatis nobis aditum, devicta morte, reserasti, da nobis, quaesumus, ut, qui resurrectionis dominicae sollemnia colimus, per innovationem tui Spiritus in lumine vitae resurgamus.
I like the repeated “re-“ sounds in reserasti… resurrectionis… resurgamus as well as “-er-“ sound: hodierna… per… aeternitatis… reserasti. Read it aloud. In the second part listen to the assonance on the vowel i, pronounced like the English double e as is “see”.
Latin colo, means “cultivate” as in “to cultivate, take care of a field”, and also “to regard one with care, i.e. to honor, revere, reverence, worship.” It is used in both agricultural and religious contexts. Latin cultus, means “worship”.
O God, who today, once death was conquered, unbarred for us the gateway of eternity through Your Only-begotten, grant to us, we beg, that we who are reverently observing the solemn annual rites of the Lord’s resurrection, may through the renewing of Your Spirit rise again in the light of life.
CURRENT ICEL (2011):
O God, who on this day, through your Only Begotten Son, have conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity, grant, we pray, that we who keep the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit, rise up in the light of life.
At Easter we Christians renew our profession of faith as one transformed people. In the waters of baptism, we passed through death to new life.
In ancient times, catechumens had a long period of preparation before their admittance to the sacred mysteries of the Mass. They were permitted to attend the reading of Scripture and the sermon but they were sent out before the Eucharistic part. At the Easter Vigil the catechumens stood before the congregation and recited their profession of faith. The doors were then opened to them. Anointed, baptized, clad in white linen robes, they were permitted to stand within the sanctuary and to participate in the Eucharist for the first time.
The newly baptized were called infantes, the “new born children” of the Church. With them, St Augustine of Hippo (d 430) used agricultural imagery when comparing the sacred area the basilica’s sanctuary to a threshing floor where grain and chaff are separated.
Augustine taught the white-robed infantes that not only are bread and wine transformed, people are too. Bread is made from many kernels of wheat, wine is from many grapes. Grain and grapes are changed by us and wine and bread are changed by God. In turn, the transformed bread and wine are given back to transform us. Augustine was especially concerned that they see themselves as a transformed people deeply, intimately connected to the Eucharist: “Estote quod videtis, et accipite quod estis… Be what you see and receive what you are” (s. 272,1). He compared the new Christians to wheat, grown, harvested, ground, formed, baked through the agency of others, prepared for the Eucharist. God plants new Christians to be wheat sprigs (spicas) not thorns (spinas). The newly baptized were now new tender shoots in the fields of God, “irrigated by the fountain of Wisdom, drenched with the light of justice.”
Can we recapture something of the joy and zeal of converts in our participation in Holy Mass?
A Church-wide liturgical catechesis could help. So will Holy Mass celebrated in such a way that we can sink into it, grow from it, rest in it, be nourished by the mysteries our Church sacramentally re-presents in it for us. Mass is not just play-acting or simple remembering: it is about Life itself. Everything we do and say during Mass has meaning, sometimes plain, often veiled.
The Octave of Easter extends our opportunity to pray and worship within the mystery of Our Lord’s resurrection.
May you and yours have a blessed and grace-filled Eastertide.