Many of our daily Pathways reflections have focused on the idea of Lent being a time of preparation for the coming celebration of Easter. In most cases, these preparations have been of a personal and spiritual nature. Today I’d like to consider how we can prepare for Easter morning in more matter-of-fact ways by looking ahead at two special aspects of our Easter morning services.
At St. John’s, we begin Easter morning in a unique way: in darkness, ready to pick up the sacred drama where we left off on Good Friday. As we kindle the fire that will light the Paschal candle for the first time, we celebrate the triumph of light over darkness; of life over death. As light gradually floods the sanctuary, we hear the ancient words of the Exsultet chanted by a member of the choir.
Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.
Dating as early as the fourth century, the Exsultet — which literally means Rejoice! — is an extended prayer that acts somewhat like an overture to the celebration of Easter. It heralds the arrival of Christ’s light in the world by recounting several Old Testament stories that we encountered on the journey to redemption.
At the end of our Easter service we have a long-standing tradition of singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” from George Frederick Handel’s great 1741 oratorio, Messiah. Everyone in the sanctuary has a role to play as the piece is divided into sections designated variously for the choir, the congregation, and the brass ensemble. Though we’ve buried our Hallelujahs for Lent, you might temporarily suspend your Lenten discipline to spend some time preparing for this wonderful St. John’s tradition. I’ve made a video, below, that will help you prepare.
Brent Erstad, Director of Music & Organist
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: