Well we just completed the celebration of the Easter Vigil. The most glorious night in the church (in my opinion and the opinion of many). This is traditionally the night many of the converts are baptized (either full immersion or water poured over them). In my home parish this year we had 23 baptized and 25 confirmed into the church, and in the diocese approximately a total of 1200, so using some my education in accounting I can safely estimate over 100,000 were likely baptized and confirmed into the catholic church (in the USA) this Easter Vigil.
Each Easter has it’s own flavor and is never the same as prior years. This alone always make this a special time of the year. This was our first Easter as empty nesters. The house was more quiet than usual (or so it seemed) and certainly not all the hustle and bustle of getting everything together as far as gifts, dinner preparations and attire for the Easter Vigil. We were either more organized or as I said, it was more of a calm around the house. Maybe this is what happens with age, like aging wine we get smoother as well! (I like that thought!). So this Easter as Holy Week came upon us and only a fraction of those we have been teaching for the past nine months showed up on Holy Thursday night, we thought what did we do to not convey the significance of Holy Week? Well here is where having the experiences of some Easters past tells us not to panic, be patience, be prayerful (pray for us St. Nicolas) and make some notes on how to make it better next year.
But the joy of the Easter Vigil is not only are those that we have been close to being baptized or confirmed into the Church but that the WHOLE Church from east to west, north to south is doing the same thing tonight! So when Paul talks about one universal church – lookie here, here it is! It begins with a simple bonfire outside and the church is dark. So as the church begins to light up from the candles of the baptized and they share this light of Christ with those waiting to be baptized and hold their own light of Christ, songs are sung, stories told of how it happened. We begin in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, every living thing great and small, man and woman. We are told of stories of struggle that man caused and how God gave many promises which included the promise land. We sing, we worship, we listen, we pray as one family from east to west, north to south. As we anticipate those about to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, you can feel the pressure of jubilation building inside the walls of the building and our hearts! Alleluia!! Alleluia!! Alleluia!!
No one word can describe this – JOY! HAPPINESS!! EXCITEMENT!! FULFILLMENT!!
As we try to quickly get everyone out their wet grey gowns and into some dry clothes with white garments or gowns – their joyful jubilation rubs off on us who are helping and soon everyone is dancing!! Kids are running up to us “I don’t know why but I am so Happy now!!”
After the final blessing of the mass and all the newbies (the newly baptized are called neophytes ) exit before the priests and the rest of us. We are having cake and punch for the reception and hardly notice that we have been in mass for the past 3 hours and in the building for the past 5 hours. And as we are saying our good-nights we overhear a past minister who’s wife converted three years ago , express his wishes to be confirmed in the Church.
Next year is going to be even better!!!