As the sun sets, attendees are given an unlit candle. Outside, the light of Christ is lit just as the last light of the sun settles on the horizon. Parishioners process in quietly and await the coming of the light of Christ as it is solemnly paraded down the center aisle. All are aided in lighting their candles from the light of Christ at the front, passing it on, candle by candle to those within their pew. The sanctuary is unlit apart from the growing light of Christ clutched in the hands of this body of individuals, awaiting the readings in silence.
Each contained fire flickers and flares – rhythmically, chaotically, still for just a moment – as members of the congregation recount God’s victory amid despair and oppression. Psalms are chanted in a resonating baritone. The mood is somber, but a quiet hope begins to swell as words of salvation are announced, as the chanting echoes across the high ceilings and glass walls of the sanctuary.
All at once, the room comes alive with light, parishioners ring bells they hid among their belongings, and the organist begins a triumphant song. All stand and sing:
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!
But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!
For the first time since Lent began, Alleluia rings out again. The world was dark and cold as a winter night, but Christ is alive and in it and working once again!
The final verse of Wheat that Springeth Green, in particular, rang true for me this year:
When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
thy touch can call us back to life again,
fields of hearts that dead and bare have been:
love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
How I needed to exhaust my lungs with the singing of those words! After a long, dark winter, after several weeks of chaos and confusion and self doubt, after 8 months of not dealing with the weight of moving away from everything familiar and comforting, I needed to acknowledge the barren winter in my heart, clear the snow away, and discover joy without limitation in Love springing up again.
He is risen! Alleluia!
first image source: Catholic News/second image: my own