It is Saturday evening when I entered the Church of St. Mary, Star of the Sea. I am there for the Easter Vigil Mass. The church was built in the late 1800’s; it has high vaulted ceilings, large stain glass windows, dark wood pews. Even with the all the church lights on, it is very dim inside. I am assisting as a deacon at the Mass; I have been the responsibility of chanting the great Easter hymn, “the Exsultet,” which takes about 9 minutes to chant. And I really do not want to muck it up! From the sacristy, I stand in the sanctuary of the church, and pray: “My Risen Lord, be with me this night! All good I am able to do to because of your grace; may your Spirit be within me!” At that moment, I experience something, I cannot describe; I am rooted in that place, and for a few seconds I am not aware of what is happening around me. The feeling passes and I go back into the sacristy.
The church has some fine vestments, for the evening Mass, I put on a gold and white dalmatic, the deacon’s vestment. It feels stiff to me; I usually wear only an alb and stole. The priests and the other deacon, Michael, also vest. We then head to the back of the church, as the lights begin to go out. By the time we are ready, the entire church is in darkness. Father Mark lights a fire in a brazier, by the light of that fire, he blesses the Easter Candle; from the fire he draws a flame to light the Candle. The fire is extinguished, the only light that pierces the darkness in the church, is the flame of the Easter Candle. Deacon Michael lifts the Candle, and he and I walked down the main aisle. Deacon Michael stops, lifts high the Candle; and I intone: “Lumen Christi!” The choir and the congregation respond: “Deo Gratias!” Then from that one Candle, the light is shared with dozens of other candles, points of light begins to spread throughout the darken church. Twice we stop, twice I chant “Lumen Christi,” twice the light is shared, until the entire church is full of points of light. The Easter Candle in placed in its stand, its flame flickering throughout the sanctuary.
I climb into the pulpit, open my binder, take a deep breath, and sing out: “Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,….Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of his glory, let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.”
“Christ is Risen!” He is Risen Indeed!”