“Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts, sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim…”
So concludes every Easter Preface in the third edition of the Roman Missal, an ebullient departure from the more succinct conclusion of the second edition:
“The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world, while the choirs of heaven sing for ever to your glory…”
It would appear that the revised translation more than states what the resurrection accomplishes, it directs the appropriate response of all the cosmos to this definitive action of God in human history. It isn’t just choirs of angels who delight and rejoice, it is now contingent upon all creation to exult with overwhelming joy. The translation in the third edition of the Missal places strong and powerful emphasis on communicating that exuberant, unfettered, unrelenting joy, which is the foundation of the Paschal event.
There is almost a frivolous giddiness to the Easter preface conclusion. In some circles this might seem contrary to the oftentimes “serious demeanor” of the liturgical enterprise. “Unbridled joy” may rarely come to mind when celebrating in some assemblies. However, the preface specifically calls forth such emotion in drawing the assembly into the Eucharistic Prayer.
Does this ask too much of presider and assembly? Fifty Days of persistent joy. How is such a thing possible, especially when global, communal, and personal circumstances echo tragic and more virulent truths to mock such sentiments? To pray and proclaim such happiness consistently throughout the Easter Season places no simple challenge upon a presider at the Eucharistic liturgy. Yet, as we pass the half-way point of the Easter Season, have presiders, and assemblies, continued enthusiastically responding with the angelic hosts to the destiny transforming reality of the Resurrection?
An important and perhaps crucial question to ask. If Christ is not risen, then everything we do as believers in the world is in vain, as Saint Paul emphatically states. Witnessing to the world the transformation brought about through the Paschal Mystery, then, is paramount. Failure to communicate the ongoing power of this event in the prayers of the Mass, let alone in the closing lines of the Easter prefaces, and the assembly can just as easily fail to grasp the necessity of the Paschal event for faith that is authentic and viable.
Publicly praying, let alone proclaiming, the final lines of an Easter preface in a manner akin to a dry read of a legal disclaimer contributes to making the impact of the Resurrection nothing more than a fantastic postscript to the Cross. It robs us of the anamnesis of joy, which ought to characterize in every age the witness of a believer in the world. A moment wherein the preface serves as the ultimate “warm up” for realizing the purpose of liturgy as lex vivendi, what it means to live as a believer. It is incumbent upon every presider to express this joy in a way unlike any other time in the liturgical year.
This is why we cannot be lax in embracing the joy of Easter, especially as we move deeper into the Fifty Days. It is necessary to remind each other, as Aiden Kavanaugh proclaimed, that with the Paschal Mystery human history has been jerked onto new courses that have forever transformed our future destiny. Giving prerogative to the forty days of Lent without surpassing that emphasis in Easter reveals we still have much to learn and understand of the joy and hope, which must form the core of what and why we believe that God can and does fulfill the promises God has made.
Yes, Easter does ask much of us, but that is Easter’s challenge. There is nothing flippant about the paschal joy the Resurrection calls forth. It is not a joy that absurdly masks the pains and brokenness of the world. Easter calls forth creation to exult in a joy that comes when we surrender all that we feebly attempt to control and direct in life to the will God. It is the greatest of all challenges we face in our lives of faith, but a challenge necessary to engage and grow ever stronger in faith. To grow, as it has been said, so that once again we may “put back Christ in the center of human life, where for too long we have placed sin and death.”