Holy Week is coming. This annual celebration of the Church’s high holy days reminds me of Easters past.
As a third grader I took part in the first restored Easter Vigil celebrated in my home parish. It was the early 1950’s. Our parish was well prepared for the celebration. There were special booklets for participation in the ritual. Everything was in English except parts of the Mass. From reading the booklet I learned what Alpha and Omega, Hodie et Heri symbolized on the candle. Lighting the candles of the whole congregation with the electric lights out transformed the church and the congregation. Seeing the blessing of the fire, the Paschal candle, the scripture readings in our darkened parish church were all very solemn and dramatic. I chuckle when I recall that starting the fire with a flame struck from flint was done the easy way—with a Zippo lighter. I was in the third grade, but to this day I get warm feelings just recalling that first Easter vigil.
In the 1980’s I presided at the Easter Vigil in the Philippines. The celebration was a great way to touch the hearts of people in the humble settings of the rural parish. Because Easter is just after the first full moon of spring, it was beautiful to be outside for the blessing of the new fire, the Easter candle and the procession into the church. Seeing the neighboring islands and the nearly full moon reflecting off the sea was an experience that brought everyone into tune with the forces of nature and the epic struggle between darkness and light ritualized in the Easter Vigil.
While we did not read all of the readings we did the essential ones that encompassed the epic drama—creation, sin, covenant, Passover, prophecy and the Resurrection. These readings were part of my life and faith experience since childhood. Hearing them read in the Visayan dialect of Waray was interesting, especially since I was still studying the language every day. Our liturgical “books” were mimeographed sheets that showed their wear. Nothing was printed at that point. Everyone did his or her best at singing.
The island of Maripipi, where I was pastor, was a dormant volcano. The people had a custom of singing the Gospel passion narrative in houses in all the villages on Good Friday. Then, on Easter Sunday, 11 men, costumed as apostles, walked around the circular island and proclaimed the miracle of the Resurrection. They ate and drank what they were offered, usually ending their trip around the island a bit tipsy because they drank the local coconut wine along the way. All those elements were part of celebrating the Easter feast. These are just some memories of Easters past.
What are some of your favorite Easter memories? How is remembering part of the message of the feast itself?
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