Easter Sunday 2013

One of the things I love about celebrating Easter in the monastery is the way in which we become (late) Romans again. Our liturgy reverts to a form St Benedict would have had no difficulty recognizing: very sober, very plain, unadorned psalmody and scripture for the most part, with a few great antiphons of heart-rending poignancy. Think Good Friday, with its extended scripture readings and the solemn preces at the altar: that is the model to which we revert in the Divine Office. It is very much the kind of prayer we associate with late Roman Christianity — spare, devoid of Gallican frills, almost terse in its formulations.

Then comes the Great Vigil itself, the sober joy of the Exsultet, the recounting of salvation history by the light of the paschal candle, the triple alleluia, so grave and yet so thrilling, and so on and so forth until we come to the Mass of Easter Day, when the sun has risen in splendour and church bells are ringing everywhere. Then what do we get? Musical fireworks? Cacophonies of sound? No. The introit for the Mass, Resurrexi, has the calm beauty of the rising sun; a joy so intense and profound it needs no other expression than this quiet, wondering awe at what has transpired.

Today most Christians will probably be feeling tired. It is all right to feel tired and not particularly joyful, if by joyful you mean the noisy variety we often mistake for real gladness of heart. We know that Christ has conquered sin and death once and for all. We are children of the Resurrection, and we rejoice in that knowledge. But if you want to go about it a little quietly, if you are feeling a little piano, that really is all right. Don’t feel guilty. You are just being (late) Roman.

Happy Easter! Gaudium paschale!

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