Tonight I went to the Easter Vigil, a 2 ½ - 2 ¾ hour ceremony. Some highlights:
• Since this is a special vigil Mass, it started out in complete darkness; all the lights were off. A fire was lit in the middle of the church (traditionally it’s lit outside the church, if possible), then blessed by one of the priests or deacons; the fire is used to light the Paschal Candle, which is then used to distribute the holy flame to those in the congregation (who have been given candles). With the church’s electric lights all turned off, the lit candles bathe the church, and it’s a really pretty sight – everything is lit by flickering candles.
• The choir was singing tonight. It’s a smallish choir, maybe only 25 people when everyone is there, but we have some good singers, and tonight we also had two trumpeters and a timpanist. I’m telling you, everything sounds fabulous with trumpets and timpani.
• There was a mentally handicapped woman in the pew in front of me, and after the choir had sung near the beginning of Mass she just started clapping, but one of her family members stopped her right away. I’m a bit sorry she was stopped; I want to clap after the choir sings too but I don’t have the nerve. And they consistently do such a beautiful job.
• There were a lot of readings tonight (from the Books of Genesis, Exodus, and Isaiah; from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans; and the Gospel). Two of the readings were a combination of reading and singing, which made them dramatic, and a practice I have not encountered at any other Catholic Church.
• Because this is when the RCIA folks are brought into full communion with the church, several candidates were baptized and/or confirmed. When the candidates were receiving their sacraments, their family members all whipped out their cameras and were also trying to get good pictures, but trying not to get too close so Father Peter could do his thing. It was entertaining seeing a large group of people trying to be both reverent and wanting to commemorate the occasion.
• One of the candidates for RCIA had a little boy who tried to follow his dad up to the sanctuary but was led back to his pew. He got away again, though, and his dad just smiled and picked him up, and when Father Peter got to the candidate, his sponsor, and his son, he just smiled and went on as if this were perfectly normal.
• The choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” Most of the congregation were filing out but quite a few people stayed, and I was glad to see people stay to cheer.