21 December 2013

First Comes Lent, Then Comes Advent

When I left school and came home, I was looking through the program from Easter Vigil now near nine months ago. I remember waiting so eagerly for several months for the day to arrive, and it is still odd sometimes to think that it has been this long gone.

Going through the program I remember very specific scenes.

"Blessing of the Easter Fire. Blessing of the Candle. Lighting of the Candle."
I remember standing in the courtyard as these events took place. I remember our RCIA group gathering around, standing close together in the breeze and having amusing exchanges with the people around me about our friend and sacristan's potential pyromania. I remember walking up the stone incline to the steps before the church.

"The people re-enter the darkened church. The priest and ministers follow. The celebrant stops three times, proclaiming, "The Light of Christ." The people respond, "Thanks be to God" After the second acclamation, all light their candles from the Easter candle."
This was one of the most memorable and magical moments. The slow procession of the priests hiked up the anticipation I was already feeling dancing at the end of my nerves. Then the light began to spread in the darkened church, like "And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Except I so eagerly wanted to comprehend it, and seemed to be holding my breath as priests and candlelight got closer.

"First Reading, Second Reading, Third Reading,..."
These readings, songs and prayers seemed to go on forever (that happens when you have nine of them), but each reading was like the first time I'd heard them, each Psalm opening up understanding and agreement, each prayer faithfully offered. The history of salvation unfolded with each round, each one as one drop of water closer to refreshment that would come with the Gospel. But perhaps my favorite part was next.

"Gloria. The church bells are rung, the altar candles are lighted, and the church lights are turned on."
It seems like such a simple explanation, too simple an explanation, for what that moment was like. From near complete darkness, meditating on the Word and being led in prayer for the better par of an hour, the introduction of light was as brilliant as the organ jumping to life and voices filling the church with praises to and of and for God, God Who gave of himself so completely out of His love, Who rose again from His power, offered us His hand of friendship. Music filled the air and I swore I could hear the angels and saints along with us. With my sponsor beside me, others in RCIA surrounding me, the priests who inspired me before me and my family behind me, I felt this was a true moment of true community. This was the Church as She should be: brilliant, exultant, joyful. I was practically shaking with excitement as the last notes of "Amen" faded to the edges of the room.

The excitement at the Gloria must have been the excitement of the Resurrection. All was darkness before: the apostles were hidden away after their Lord and leader was put to death, we had endured forty days of penance and abstinence and prayer. The Gloria was like the tomb being opened, like the angels saying, "He is not here," like Mary Magdalene's realization, like Jesus walking through the wall to greet His friends. The Gloria was like the triumph over death, was like Satan being cast into Hell, was like the window to Heaven and eternity being opened above us.

The glory of the moment of our song melted into the glory which greeted us much later in the Eucharist. Bread and wine, now Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, raised into the air resounded just as loudly and shone just as brightly as the music from earlier. "Here I am," the Lord speaks from that altar. "Take and eat...take and drink," He shares himself with us, who have no business coming to Him in any form, because He asks us, because He has given us the grace required.

When I imagine Heaven, I imagine singing joyfully all day (what are days in Heaven?). I imagine finding all completeness and beauty in One Person, whom I will never be separated from again. I imagine reuniting with other faithful servants, linking my arms with theirs and being happy and more alive than we ever were on Earth. I imagine the brilliance of God being too much to bear as my imperfect human self, but in that moment I imagine being unable to do anything but stare at His radiance and splendor, just as I behold Him in the Eucharist. I imagine being truly awe-struck.

I am waiting now again as Advent continues. My reward at the end of the month will be the announcement of His birth and the celebration of it. As expected, it seems like Christmas time will never come. It reminds me, just as this Lent and Easter did, that though this life is a years-long wait, the wait is worth it. The reward will be beautiful.

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