State of My Year!

“Answer when I call, my saving God.2015 calendar

In my troubles, you cleared a way;

Show me favor, hear my prayer.

Know that the Lord works wonders for the faithful;

the Lord hears when I call out.

Tremble and do not sin;

upon your beds ponder in silence.

Offer fitting sacrifice

And trust in the Lord.

Many say, ‘May we see better times!

Lord, show us the light of your face!’

But you have given my heart more joy

than they have when grain and wine abound.

In peace I shall both lie down and sleep

For you alone, Lord, make me secure.”

(Psalm 4: 2, 4-9)

WordPress.com has a blog that offers a “Daily Prompt,” to help bloggers come up with ideas for a post.  The one for May 19th, 2015, was “State of Your Year.”  I am responding to it today.

What is the “State of My Year?”  One could say it has been a mixed year so far, full of ups and downs.  In January, I was laid off from my job.  And I have found that the world of job searching, has changed a lot since I was last laid off from a position, over twenty years ago.  Before, it was printing up a stack of resumes, getting a pile of envelopes, rolls of stamps, and mailing those resumes to potential employers, with a well crafted cover letter.  Now, everything is online, job boards, recruiting agencies, even the company’s human resource department, it is all online.  You are either uploading your resume to an application website, or e-mailing it as an attachment.  There is rarely a telephone number, let alone the name of a person you can call to follow-up with.  I applied online dozens of times over the past four and a half months.  No takers yet; a least a few companies sent response e-mails.  Now my previous employer provided me with a very generous severance package, but that will soon be coming to an end.  Things may be getting a little tight soon.  Am I worried?  Yes, I am.  Am I in despair?  No, I am not!

The reason why is reflected in the above Pslam, I trust in the love of my God, and His care for me, and my loved ones.  It does not mean that I expect some miracle (though that would be very nice.)  But I know that in my experience of the Father’s presence in my life, I am not alone.  I know that whatever the burden I may be carrying, Jesus is helping me the load.  That no matter how dark or stormy it may get, the Holy Spirit is within me, bringing light, bringing hope, and bringing peace.  And I know that through others, God is helping through this difficult time.

One of the highlights of this year came at the Easter Vigil, where I assisted as one of the Deacons.  The church was almost pitch black, when the Pastor lit the fire, and lighted the Easter Candle.  As my fellow Deacon and I process down the main aisle, the flame was shared with the congregation, each person lighting their candle.  The church had hundreds points of light, which dispelled the darkness.  I was given the role of chanting a great Easter hymn, “The Exsultet!”  I had practiced singing this hymn, with varying degrees of success.  But now, in that pulpit, as looked out into the church, I began to chant: “Exult, let them exult, the host of heaven…Be glad, let earth be glad as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King,…knowing an end to gloom and darkness.”

The Easter story, the Easter season speaks of hope, speaks of the love of God, which dispels all anxiety, all fear, and all darkness.  Soon Christians will celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came in tongues of flame, into the hearts of the disciples in Jerusalem, and into our hearts today.

I do not know what the rest of this year will bring, but I know we will get through it okay.

State of Your Year

Reflections on the Easter Vigil – 2015

Easter Candle 2015

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!”

Good Friday in Beverly – 2015

TGood Friday Crosshis is the first chance I have had to write some reflections on part of what I have been doing during this Holy Week, 2015.  Yesterday, Good Friday, I assisted at the service that was held at St. Margaret of Scotland parish in Beverly, MA.  The small church was built in the late 1800’s, and has a very unique design.  The interior has a dark wood ceiling, which sort of adds to the solemnity of the liturgy we were about to celebrate.

The Good Friday service commemorates the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, it is the most solemn liturgy held during Holy Week.  Wearing red colored vestments, the Pastor and I silently processed into the church.  Entering the sanctuary, Father, I and the cantor kneeled in the sanctuary, and the service began with readings from Scripture.  I, the cantor, and our music director chanted the Passion of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of John.  After the prayers of the faithful, I went to the rear of the church, picked up a plain wooden cross, and began to process down the main aisle, back to the sanctuary.  I stopped three times; each time intoning: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world!” to which the congregation responded: “Come let us worship.”  After Father and I had each venerated the Cross, members from the congregation came forwarded to also venerate it.  Some kissed the wood, others knelt and touched it, and others just bowed before it.  When everyone had come forward, Father and I set the Cross on a side altar, with two candles on either side.  A communion service followed, then Father and I processed out and we did in, in silence.

After greeting members of the Catholic community as they left the church, I went back in; back to the side altar with the Cross.  As I stood, looking at that bare wooden Cross, it came to me, how an instrument of public execution, has become a symbol of triumph, Christ’s triumph of death.  I think though we forget what suffering Jesus went through, for us, for our salvation.  We need to recall what was written by the prophet Isaiah:

“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear.  Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”  (Isaiah 52)

Tonight, we commemorate, we celebrate Jesus Christ victory over sin and death; we celebrate the peace and joy that is still being experienced by so many of us.