I posted in another thread about the logistical problems involved in this year’s Easter Vigil. To anchor our feet firmly on the ground, here’s a verbatim report of a rather different Vigil that an American friend sent me:
No Service of Light, no blessing of fire or candle, nor Exsultet. The service started in the church with the Liturgy of the Word. The paschal candle was already lit and in place when I arrived.
After the Genesis creation reading, the “responsorial psalm” from the choir: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
2nd reading is Exodus. “Responsorial psalm”: When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land (Let My People Go) (soloist accompanied by choir)
3rd reading is Ezekiel, new heart and new spirit. “Responsorial psalm”: I’ve Got That Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart….
After the epistle the choir sang the song We Fall Down But We Get Up, a gospel song by contemporary Black Gospel artist Donnie McClurkin. No sung Alleluia.
Then came a “sprinkling rite”. Using the “stainless steel baptismal stock pot with spigot at the bottom”, folks were encouraged to come up and get some holy water from the tap and make the sign of the cross. Those unable to walk forward had a small glass finger bowl of water brought to them. With a towel. A deacon and a nun stood by the spigot to distribute the water. Sister held a little bowl to catch the drips. During this altar call to “come and get you some holy water” we sang This little light of mine.
There had been no blessing of water. Father said “Let us pray” and maybe the prayer was about the water but his accent was sufficiently thick so that I could not discern. He did everything from his chair and didn’t move from it. Gospel followed the water rite.
No baptisms or confirmations, no sung Gloria or Holy, etc., but still a two-hour liturgy.
I should mention that this is a very senior congregation. About 75 in attendance because no one wants to drive in the dark (start time was 8 pm when it was still daylight). Average age over 75: probably only two people in the church under 60. Choir numbered about eight — is also primarily older and included a few singers from the Eritrean Mass community that worships there. They all used their cell phones as lights because the church lights (hanging fluorescent ballasts) were really dim.
Very low ceiling (about 10 foot) and pot of incense being swung about unintentionally by a very “senior” altar server who held the thurible in one hand and his cane in the other. Carpeted, with padded chairs, only about 30 feet from the back of the church to the altar, about six pews deep, in a fan shape. So much incense that I had a coughing fit. The nun came across to me with a handful of cough drops….
Sad, because it used to be a very vibrant, multi-generational parish with a thriving school. Like many parishes, it is a clustered parish — made of three similarly ageing assemblies in nearby churches, now shuttered. So no candle tapers, possibly because they would have incinerated themselves, but lots of shaking (Parkinson’s, arthritis, etc.).
It was definitely a spectacle! But something made me think that maybe it’s the effort of the people, not the words or rites, that matter. Those older folks made an effort to be there. They sang, they greeted each other, and they weebled and wobbled but they did sit and stand.