At the Easter Vigil, I found myself talking up the tradition, explaining:
- this is one of the oldest patterns of worship in the church
- people have been baptised on this night for most of 2000 years
- the first story we hear is most of 4000 years old. Some of what it says about God isn’t quite what we’d want to say, but see how they thought that it was God’s presence that mattered…?
- after we light the candle, we will move into the church and sing the exultet. This song is much as it was 1500 years ago…
- and now, we will do a new thing: we will baptise P. and pray for him as he begins a new life in Christ.
On and on it went. Weaving past, present, future. Tying our lives up with God’s.
I tried again tonight, offering someone another ancient song, offering it in hopes that it would be a form of blessing and a means of healing. But it wasn’t. Not for them. What I experience as connection, groundedness, a channel for God, was for them an empty shell; someone else’s ritual.
I forget sometimes that liturgy is not as inevitable as breathing.
The song is below, by the way. To whom it may concern…
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire;
thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart;
Thy blessed unction from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love;
Enable with perpetual light
The dulness of our blinded sight:
Anoint and cheer our soiled face
with the abundance of they grace;
keep far our foes, give peace at home;
where thou art guide no ill can come.
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and Thee, of Both, to be but One;
That through the ages all along
this may be our endless song.
Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
15th C. translation
of an 8th C. text