Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Easter Vigil Explained With The Help Of An Ent

Later tonight I will attend my congregation's Easter Vigil. It's one of the most beautiful services in Church's liturgical year and it's one I always look forward to since attending my first vigil almost ten years ago.

The Easter Vigil starts outside in the dark with a single candle lit and slowly moves into the sanctuary as the congregation sings, chants, and listens to the Scripture being read. Usually the Vigil transitions to the Service of the Sacrament as the alleluias that were absent during the season of Lent return with the breaking of the Easter morning. 

The Easter Vigil can be a very long service.

I was listening to my favorite radio program, Issues, Etc. earlier in the week and Pastor Will Weedonbrought up a wonderful quote from Brian Helge to give a glimpse of what the Easter Vigil is to those who have never attended one or even heard of it... with some insight from an Ent. Yep, an Ent. Here's the quote:

To those who are not of the household of faith, what we are about to do must look very peculiar.  We are about to stand in the dark, carry candles about, sing lengthy and sublime religious tests, read stories from the Bible.  What does this all mean?  What is going on here in this community?

I think that I first came to understand what this was all about and why I came to think that this was the most important thing in my life when I read The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.  In their wandering and meandering, two of the main characters, called hobbits, meet a talking tree, called an Ent, and they introduce themselves and the conversation proceeds:

          "I'm a Brandybuck, Meriadoc Brandybuck, though most people call me just Merry."

          "And I'm a Took, Peregin Took, but I'm generally called Pippin, or even Pip."

"Hm, but you are hasty folk, I see," said Treebeard.  "I am honored by your confidence; but you should not be too free all at once.  There are Ents and Ents, you know; or there are Ents and things that look like Ents but ain't, as you might say.  I'll call you Merry and Pippin, if you please - nice names.  For I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rat." A queer half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes.  "For one thing it would take a very long while: my name is growing all the time, and I've lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story.  Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say.  It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking along time to say, and to listen to."

To use Treebeard's mode of expression, we are not going to be hasty folk tonight, satisfied with glibly saying the name "Christian."  Tonight, you might say, is "Old Entish" night in the church.  Tonight we are going to tell our name - to ourselves, by way of reminder, to those who will become part of us this night through baptism and confirmation, and to those of the world who will listen, who will take the time to hear what our name is.

And our name is a very long one, one that has been growing since the creation of the world.  Our name is a very long story - of how we are made, of how God chose us from among all peoples, of how God liberated us from bondage, of how God planted us in the promised land, of how, in these last times, God has given a new twist, given our name meaning in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Because we have been here for so long, it takes a long time to tell who we are, to recount the story of our life as a people, and none of us would be here if we did not think that that name was worth telling and listening to.  Now the trick to this kind of name telling is to relax.  You cannot be hasty in this time ahead of us.  Haste will stop up your ears finally, and then you will not hear this lovely language and our beautiful name.

Relax and make yourself comfortable in the darkness and don't even try to "make sense" of the name.  Just hear it, let it roll over you in waves of meanings.  Tonight we are going to listen to a series of episodes, not write a theological treatise on the resurrection. A practical word about relaxing:  if you need to get up and move about, do so.  If you need a breath of fresh air, go out to get it. We'll still be telling the story when you rejoin us.  Whatever you need to do to stay comfortable, do it.  All of this will enable you to hear the lovely language in which we can really name ourselves as God himself has named us.

"Christian" is merely an inadequate abbreviation for what we are about to tell.

Quote from A Triduum Sourcebook, Gabe Huck

Nuff said.

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