Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holy Week--Mostly Easter Vigil--Glimpses

After the Maundy Thursday service, we process to the Altar of Repose.  Members of our congregation signed up for time slots so that there was a prayer vigil there throughout the night, as Christ's disciples asked them to remain awake, to watch and pray.  This was taken just before sunrise.  Those windows face east, looking out on Lake Michigan.

We hold our Stations of the Cross service in the gymnasium at the Kemper Center, so there is room to process from station to station.

The Easter Vigil begins with the congregation in darkness.  The priest knocks loudly on the door before the procession enters...

...and the Light of Christ is lit and spread throughout the congregation as Father R sings the ancient "Exsultet."

The house lights go up, the candles are extinguished, and we settle in for a recounting of salvation history through a series of nine Old Testament readings, with songs interspersed between each reading.

The first reading is the Creation account.  Seven children read of God's doings on each day, and seven more children hid behind the rood screen to raise a banner for each day.

Since the account of the seventh day is so short ("On the seventh day, God rested from all his work"), all seven banners were up for just a split second before the children started to release them.  You can see the first day is already on its way down.  (But I really wanted the picture because I made all the banners!  Simple as they are, I put a lot of time into them and I was so relieved that the idea worked, they looked great and everyone really liked them. Click to enlarge!)

I was in charge of all the readings, and I tried to include all ages and some new people.  This couple read the account of the Flood (with percussion accompaniment for the rain, the rising water, and the livestock).  They were so happy to be part of the Vigil, since they started coming to Light of Christ during Holy Week last year, and they said they were celebrating their anniversary of being part of the church!

Here are the Israelites, at the shore of the Red Sea.  (See it, there on the right?  It looks dark in the picture, but it's a colorful fabric.)  And that's the Angel of the Lord with the pillar of cloud, in between the Israelites and the Red Sea.

"And there were the Egyptians, advancing on them."

"The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them."

"The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left."

And there's no picture to show it, but of course the waters cover the Egyptians, as they wave their hands wildly seeking to stay "afloat," then the hands slowly disappear as they sink down, and the two walls of water come back together again.

"On that day, the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious..."  (Isaiah 4:2-6, God's Presence in a Renewed Israel).

Salvation Offered Freely to All (Isaiah 55:1-11).  "Seek the Lord while he may be found..."  This expressive teenager gracefully performed what we called "interpretive movements," while her aunt read the passage.

This next one was the most moving reading of all, and I take no credit for it.  I asked the moms of these two budding ballerinas to look at the text and see if they could choreograph something, and what they came up with was so incredibly beautiful and meaningful.  Wish we had video of it!

The girl in white is God, about to cleanse Israel of her sins, which she does by removing and dropping the dirty cloak. "Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."  She made expressive movements of removing and giving a heart, and Israel came to life and inhaled deeply at the words, "I will put my spirit within you."

Then Israel followed God and imitated her movements, as the reading continued, "...and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God."  They ended in a lovely pose with each reaching gracefully toward the other.  It was just beautiful!

Without a stage, we spread the Dry Bones out in the center aisle, hoping that everybody could see at least one of them.  Three boys started out on the ground and slowly coming to life, with our percussionist adding a rattling noise for the bones coming together, and a wind sound when the prophet prophesies to the breath.

The last reading, The Gathering of God's People (Zephaniah 3:14-20), included ten children, in international costumes, being gathered--one by one and in pairs, from either side and down the center aisle--from the nations, ending with all ten children pulling in close to our reader, who did such a nice job of working with the kids while being God, speaking words at times stern, at times comforting, at times celebratory--and cuing the kids with graceful gathering gestures.  (She also was our service coordinator, attending to many logistical details weeks ahead of time!  And she also blogs here.)

The Holy Noise!  (See everyone ringing bells?)  This is when the priest says, "The Lord is risen!" and we respond, "He is risen indeeed; ALLELUIA!"  When you haven't said the "A-word" all during Lent, it is a joyful thing indeed to let it cross your lips!  (One of our visitors told me his favorite part of the service was the Holy Noise, as such a celebratory way to celebrate that moment of the resurrection of Christ.)

The first Eucharist of Easter...

...followed by songs of celebration.

Outside the Holy Fire was still burning as we left, to return again for another joyous celebration on Easter morning!

Special thanks to our photographer, Nathan J!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like a beautiful service! Thanks for taking the time to share it...Love, Pianomum