Easter Vigil 2011
I attended the Easter Vigil service, as I did last year, and many details were the same. We all lit our candles and stood with them in the darkness of the vast spacious church, symbolizing the light in the vast spacious universe. We are that light too. We recounted the story of the Genesis/Creation of the Universe:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault ‘sky.'”
And so on. Again, a nun chanted for a good long while about God, which I enjoyed.
As this was the day after Passover, the day the Hebrews escaped from Egypt, and the day Jesus had died, we recounted those stories, imagining the parting of the Red Sea and the sacrifice of the lamb. We spoke of Christ in the Tomb, in Death.
Easter Vigil is the longest service of the year, pretty much- it is a mass for initiation ceremonies, for certain sacraments. During Easter Vigil, congregants are baptized, they receive their first Holy Communion, and they are confirmed into the Church. It was so long that I indeed somehow allowed myself to feel discomfort and suffering in the form of boredom.
When I was very little, I told my mother, “I don’t want to go to church. Church is boring,” to which she replied, “What if God thought you were boring?” (Until the past year or so, I never knew what people meant by “Catholic guilt”. I think it might apply to any religion improperly practiced, now that I look at it again.) My mother successfully guilted me into attending church. Of course, now things are different- I am no longer a child, I know that boredom is an illusion, and I do not attend any ritual out of a sense of guilt. I do it because I want to. I want to commune with my God, performing ritual with many others. Still, I do seem to think that boredom is real, often, as in this mass. I saw the couple to my left, holding hands, and let myself feel sorry for myself for a moment. I wished that I could have a companion sitting with me, experiencing the same evening as I, and holding my hand too. But I knew that wasn’t the Now, so I tried not to prolong the thought. I tried to enjoy myself and go beyond boredom. I spent time with only myself and God.
I wondered why anyone would ever want to be initiated into Catholicism. I did so merely because my family did so and it was therefore the most organic way for me to experience religion. I was raised in it. But why would anyone from outside the faith ever want to convert? Enough to study and do community service and go through sacraments for three years? I thought, well, why am I still a Catholic? I answered myself, again, that I want to experience ritual with other human beings. I like focusing upon the divine, hearing about it, and singing about it. I feel comfortable with Catholic Mass and I know it inside and out. I connect to the divine well through its recommendations. I never really feel like going to other traditions’ rituals that often, beyond Theatre and Yoga. I have thought about attending Jewish or Islamic or Buddhist Temples- or that temple to Hermes I found on a walk one day- and I would attend, if someone wanted me to go with them- but, otherwise, I always just stick with Catholicism. Yet somehow people are attracted from the outside to the inside.
I wondered about this, and then, in the morning, after I had attended Easter service, I hung around outside eating a doughnut and drinking orange juice. I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t know anyone. I only paid attention to the community around me. I thought about going to speak to the priest and telling him how I enjoyed his sermons and thought he was right on. Yet he was busy with others- I watched him interact with others, and then, at one point as I was close to him, I watched a woman and her daughter approach him. They were not dressed in Easter finery as I and many others were, but instead in the faded sort of clothing one might use on a day off or in which to do laundry. They said they had been attracted from the outside to the inside upon seeing everyone else going in, so, they went in too… experienced the service… and felt like they wanted to become a part of our community. They inquired as to how they could do this. I did not catch what the priest said, but I watched him enfold them in an embrace. The attraction… an attraction… there before me to see.
Back to Easter Vigil. After that Mass, I walked over to look at the statues again. Many were milling about. When congregants would pass those who had just been initiated a further level into the Church, they would congratulate the initiate. I saw one of them- one of these women who had decided to become Catholic- and remembered when I had seen her arrive here at the same time as I. Upon her arrival, she had walked out of her car as a princess might exit a carriage- or so my fanciful hormones tell me. Her dark hair braided in two plaits surrounding her perfect, glowing brown countenance reminded me of the Nimi’ipuu style of hairdressing- yet I saw her not in deerskins, but in jeans, and then, in brown robes. I saw her now, after the service, in these robes, walk near to me, near the same statue I had been watching. She was holding a little girl in her arms. The little girl pointed to the statue I had been watching- the statue of Jesus pointing to his Sacred Heart, emphasizing his heart center/chakra as he often does. The little girl was terribly pleased by the appearance of this statue, or so her expression told me. She said, “Look, mommy! Who is that?” Her mother, whose appearance pleased me just as much as the statue’s, with a voice sweet like honey and joyful like the song of a bird, said, “That’s Jesus!” How I enjoy watching beauty unfold.