The local church of St Thomas More has risen to the occasion and the Easter Vigil was… both spectacular and cosy. The music and the choir made for the former and congregation that didn’t quite fill up the church for the latter. This is because many people from the area leave for their country estates, I imagine, and so the rest of us have more room left. This is a good thing as I used to spend hours waiting in front of the Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with the Westminster Abbey) to get a seat at all.
The first part of the Easter Vigil is the Service of Light, with blessing of the fire and lighting of the Paschal candle. This happens in a complete darkness, with only the fire illuminating the church and the words the priest reads out. There is something primeval about the naked flame burning boldly in the most civilised of surroundings. The fire is then shared by all – it is magical to watch the tiny flames jumping from candle to candle as everyone lights their own. A perfect setting for intoning of the Exsultet.
There was another beautiful piece of music, a psalm:
Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum, ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus.
As the deer longs for streams of living water, so my soul longs for you, my God.
The choir sung the Latin version, set to music by Palestrina.
The second part was the liturgy of the Word and after many, many a reading, the Easter Alleluia resounded. That was the music that captured my heart tonight. Surprisingly, I could not find any rendition of it whatsoever, not even the music score, online. The internet is letting me down on spiritual matters, it seems. [Update: Found it here! Not very good quality but that's the best I can do.]
The service continued with baptism and confirmation, followed by the Eucharist liturgy, for which the priest suddenly broke out in Latin. It was good to see the years of attending high masses in the Church’s lingua materna kick in. The music of this liturgy is ageless, based on Gregorian chants.
Tonight there was harmony of the spheres or as the Exsultet puts it far better:
Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth…
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.
Once again, Happy Easter and may you weather the seasonal outbreak of religion on this blog…