"Maybe he was hit by a truck. I hope he was wearing clean underwear the way my mother always said."
"He must have been trampled by elephants."
"I bet he tried to drive around a railroad crossing gate. That will teach him."
"He was probably smoking in bed."
"Probably out with his drinking buddies again. Too much odd liturgy will do that to a man."
"He must have found that holy young lady he needs. I hope he's enjoying his honeymoon. An Easter honeymoon-- how romantic!"
* * * * * *
My apologies go to those who have been awaiting the latest chapter in this extended saga. It was just a very busy week, and that combined with a sore wrist and elbow delayed this week's article. I did scribble some extra notes when I arrived home, though, so I'm not relying entirely on an untrustworthy memory.
Longtime readers will recall how I agonized last year to determine an appropriate parish to attend on Easter Sunday, the high point of the liturgical year. They will also recall how I hit the jackpot as the coadjutor bishop was the principal celebrant, which was something I had no idea would happen.
I deliberated quite a bit this year and decided that I shouldn't expect to do nearly as well this year. Besides, watching the Easter Vigil Mass from the cathedral on TV satisfied my longing for the utmost in ceremony, especially after I attended the Chrism Mass, the Mass of the Lord's Supper, two days of sung Morning Prayer, and the Good Friday liturgy. I therefore settled upon a small parish about half an hour's drive from where I live. I really didn't know what to expect at the 9 AM Mass there, so I just marked a plan B, a plan C, and a plan D in my head and went to bed. I didn't set my alarm, though, and just asked God to awaken me in time for the Mass I should attend.
The building has a red brick exterior with a high set of front steps leading to the main entrance. I looked for a cornerstone but was unable to find one; however, a sign outside reads, "Est. 1921." That will give some clue as to the age of the building. The inside appears to have been renovated somewhat but is still within reason, I suppose. The sanctuary is in a large, peaked niche with a figure of the Risen Christ sans cross mounted on the rear wall. What was probably the original crucifix now hangs in the choir loft (a compromise I've seen more than once, I think). The large, square, metal tabernacle has been moved to the left, where a side altar probably once was. The ceiling is white with square, dark brown mouldings; traditional stained-glass windows remain on light-colored walls with light wooden paneling at the bottom. The dark, wooden pews, each of which held eight people Sunday, are divided into four sections by a center aisle and a break about halfway back; side aisles are also present.
I arrived at about 8:40 AM and found a spot in the small parish parking lot. Two rows of spaces were along the perimeter, and one row was in the middle of the lot; I decided to take a space in the center, with the front of the car facing the exit, so that I wouldn't have to use reverse gear to leave the space. I then headed inside before the teeming masses began to appear.
The cantor went to the cantor's lectern and cheerfully announced that on this joyous Easter morning, we should introduce ourselves to one another. Does anyone hear a lead balloon dropping from the ceiling? Does anyone hear chuckling from the nether regions? Ouch. Fortunately, things brightened after that ignominious start. The opening hymn was "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today." Three servers, three lay ministers of Holy Communion, a group of RCIA graduates who had been accepted into the Church at the Easter Vigil, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. The priest began with Form C of the penitential rite; this was followed by Peter Jones' arrangement of the Gloria ("... peace to His people, peace on Earth..."). This was sung rather slowly compared to the way it is usually done in my experience, which although disappointing was still better than reciting it on Easter Sunday.
The reader then went to the ambo to give the first reading. We then sang a hymn from the OCP Music Issue (found in the pews along with Today's Missal), "This Day Was Made By the Lord," which I think is based upon the actual psalm for Easter Sunday. This was led by the cantor from the cantor's lectern. Next, the reader gave the second reading and then asked us to join in the recitation of the sequence for Easter Sunday. The verse before the gospel was sung, led by the cantor.
The priest proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo and then gave a fairly decent homily which began with a welcome to the RCIA graduates, who were wearing their baptismal garments. He spent some time observing that the liturgy gives us many signs of renewal at this time of year, echoing the newness of life that the Resurrection brings us: new water, new holy oils from the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, new hosts freshly consecrated, new members of the Church, renewal of baptismal promises, and so on. He also related a story about a school where some students were going from room to room performing a play about the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. Part of the play involved a student going underneath the teacher's desk to be Christ "in the tomb" while another student played the part of the "rock" in front of the tomb. The student who played the "rock" later related to the nun organizing the play that he really enjoyed that part because he "liked being able to release Jesus from the tomb."
We then renewed our baptismal promises as is customary on Easter Sunday (and only on Easter Sunday) in place of the Creed. This was followed by the typical Prayer of the Faithful and a collection taken with long-handled wicker baskets as the offertory hymn, "Morning Has Broken," was sung. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen appeared to be from the Mass of Glory, arranged by Bob Hurd and Ken Canedo. This was not announced or printed but is a reasonable guess based on a glance at the hymnal. It also was sung with a rather slow tempo, for what that is worth. The priest used the first Eucharistic Prayer, especially appropriate for Easter Sunday. (This parish has a particularly small parking lot, and the next Mass in the Church was at 10:30, but even with all the other trimmings, the Mass was over in plenty of time.)
At the Our Father, which was recited, I didn't see too much hand-holding, probably because the many occasional visitors are hopelessly behind on the latest liturgical innovations and had no idea that they "should" be doing that. The Agnus Dei was sung to the setting from David Isele's Holy Cross Mass (which until now I have identified as beginning with "Laaaaaamb of God").
A deacon appeared and retrieved additional ciboriums from the tabernacle before joining the priest and three lay ministers to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion. The chalice was not offered; stations were located at the front, at the break, and at a small section of seats to the right of the sanctuary (possibly for a choir or maybe an addition made in desperation at this small church. The first of two Communion hymns was "Jesus Is Risen;" the second was "Supper of the Lord."
After Communion, a second collection was taken much in the manner of the first. I think an announcement was made before the priest offered the closing prayer and imparted a Solemn Blessing. The closing hymn was "Alleluia, Alleluia." I also recall the RCIA candidates joining the priest and servers in the closing procession, but now my memory is starting to get hazy.
When I returned to the parking lot, I found myself muttering "the best laid plans of mice and men" to myself as a car was parked in an ad hoc space at a right angle to the space where I was parked; its owner was nowhere to be seen, so I was forced to use reverse gear to exit the space anyway. Oh, well, at least I was able to do that, I didn't get stuck holding hands, and I can in any case rejoice that Christ died to redeem me from my sins, and He is now risen in glory!
* * * * * *
"What a relief, Mabel-- he's still eligible! Some people were saying he got married."
"You can't have him, Doris-- I told you I have first dibs!"
"Enough of that nonsense, girls. Do you really want to be wandering around the country visiting churches all your lives?"
"No, Florence, but maybe I can change him."
"Yeah, sure you can. And I'm Abe Lincoln!"