With thanks to Fritz’ immediately preceding post, which opens all sorts of excellent opportunity to share ideas, here are a few of my own:
1. Translations in The Episcopal Church have not changed, nor have the rules about conformity to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Nonetheless, there are several things that, for me at least, are missing in the BCP Exsultet: no felix culpa, no bees, no “night clear as day.” We add the bees back in in our community, but not the other elements. I know of communities that use other translations (several using either the “American” or “Anglican” Missals; some using the 1970 Sacramentary): I’ll be curious to know if anyone used the new Roman Missal translation.
2. I’m still baffled about the ordering of the collects. It strikes me that the last of the collects is not tied to its lesson, but is meant to be the last regardless of the number of readings or which ones are selected. This is the same collect used in the BCP ordination rites, and is also used to conclude the Solemn Collects (Great Intercessions) of Good Friday in the BCP, hence my supposition that it is (or, at some point in history, was) meant to be the wrap-up to all the lessons. It’s also the last of the collects after the Old Testament readings in the Roman Missal. Again, I’d be curious as to people’s ideas about the matter. Due to a printing flub with a last minute change of readings, it ended up in our ordo this year as second-to-last, kind of a downer for me.
3. Start and end times are a pastoral issue as much as a rubrical issue, but I’m of the “not before nightfall and not after dawn” school. I lose on the front end: we start at 7 p.m. — and for the first year in the last five, we began outdoors with a substantial fire (in spite of high winds). While the dark would have enhanced the moment, it was less frustrating than I thought; the church interior was mostly dark when we entered, and subdued but not dark lighting during the liturgy of the word was effective.
What I vehemently protest is the option in the BCP that all or part of the Vigil may be used as a “sunrise service” preceding a morning eucharist. This makes no sense to me, however convenient it might be. Still, I suppose I should be glad that some communities make use of this option, rather than omitting the vigil altogether — an all too common reality in The Episcopal Church, alas!
4. The Book of Common Prayer allows for the initiation rites to take place either after the Old Testament readings or after the homily. The difficulty I experience with this is the lack of clear, smooth transitions when the former option is taken. The order of the BCP initiation rites is, in my opinion, problematic — Thomas Cranmer’s “consecrate-use” theology dominates, so the Profession of Faith is far removed from the administration of the water, with prayers for the candidates and the blessing of the font intervening. A solid homily (which is, admittedly, an option after any of the readings in the BCP) can help smooth the way into the initiation rites, though this is seldom done. I do like the notion that the Romans 6 reading is thereby addressed to the newly baptized, but are the initiation rites part of the “Vigil” or part of the first liturgy (“First Eucharist,” in the BCP) of Easter? (This is a distinction that the BCP maintains, much to my chagrin!)
5. Finally, the BCP places the Paschal Greeting “Alleluia. Christ is risen. // The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.” immediately before the Gloria, as the opening acclamation of the first liturgy of Easter. I find this problematic because the Alleluia has not been restored musically at this point. In our community, we drop “The Gospel of the Lord” and its response after the Gospel reading at the Vigil, and replace it with the Paschal Greeting, so that the Sung Alleluia can do the heavy lifting in restoring the word from which we’ve “fasted” for forty days. It makes a certain amount of sense in light of the Gospel message, though we’ve also said as much during the Exsultet. Any thoughts on this issue?
Of note, we had two infants, two adults, and three children of various ages baptized last night; their families and friends took our usual Vigil congregation of 80-85 to about 250. It made a huge difference, though I wish catechumenal rites had been part of the baptismal preparation for all throughout Lent (and the preceding months).