Holy Week began with Palm Sunday, about which I've already written. I am so grateful that we live less then 10 minutes from church: much as we loved our previous church, the 45-minute drive each way meant that we rarely attended mid-week services. I didn't realize what we were missing.
Since our new rector arrived, we've regularly had a Mass on Monday nights. This was not much different. The congregation is never large for this service, but is a nice mix of people who attend different services on Sundays and thus don't normally interact much. We're getting to know new people, and I'm getting my Prayer Book Rite I fix. (It's Rite II at the Sunday service where the choir sings; I like both forms of the service, but I've been missing Rite I.) The sermons are different, too: more on the intellectual side, and very interesting—I'm getting a bit of an education in church history.
Tuesday was a "Contemplative Eucharist," with music from the Taizé Community. It is interesting that while I dislike the simplistic repetitiveness of much of the so-called "praise and worship" musical style, I find the Taizé songs, which are also simple and repetitive, deeply moving. The fact that they are gently-paced, hushed, and meditative makes a good deal of the difference.
I forgot to save the Wednesday bulletin, but it was a Tennebrae service, with many readings and prayers, and the gradual extinguishing of candles and lights, ending in darkness. It finished just in time for us to make our way across campus for choir rehearsal.
Maundy Thursday was the first service since Sunday that involved the choir. It was a multi-part service, with much singing, Scripture, and prayer, the traditional Footwashing, Communion, and the Stripping of the Altar. The hymns were: O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded; There Is a Green Hill Far Away; Humbly I Adore Thee; Alone Thou Goest Forth; and My Song Is Love Unknown. The choir sang two anthems: Ave Verum (Mozart), and Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach). Note that we sang the Mozart in the original Latin, but my German-speaking readers may be disappointed that we sang an English version of the Bach.
On Good Friday we skipped the noon service, which I regret a little since it also included the Stations of the Cross and I was curious as to how that might be different with our new rector. Maybe next year. Instead, we went to the evening service, with solemn readings, Communion, and just one hymn, Were You There?, sung without accompaniment.
Saturday evening was the Great Vigil of Easter, which might be my favorite church service of the year. There is so much to it! We began outside the church with the "lighting of the new fire" and the lighting of the Paschal Candle—and a lot of smaller candles in the hands of the congregation. We processed together into the church, which was very dark and lit only by our candles for the entire "vigil" part of the service. This was highly effective, but the solemnity was not without its amusing moments. As Episcopalians, we're pretty good at juggling hymnals and prayer books, but to do it all one-handed, with a lighted and wax-dripping candle in the other, was more than usually challenging. You'll be happy to know we did not burn down the church, nor even singe anyone's hair—that I know of.
We finally extinguished and set down our candles as the lights went up for the Great Alleluia of Easter—a good thing, for at that point we needed to pick up our bells to follow the instruction, All ring bells with great fervor!
The choir did not sing for this service, but there was plenty of music, including the Exsultet. I liked it better when the whole choir sang it, instead of just the priest—but I'll take what I can get. Hymns: Through the Red Sea Brought at Last; The Day of Resurrection!; Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks; I Am the Bread of Life; Jesus Christ Is Risen Today. Duet: Sound the Trumpet (Handel). And at least one more beautiful solo or duet, but memory is failing me on the details.
Easter Sunday: Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
To those who would ask why one would attend two Easter services (the Vigil and the Sunday service), I can only ask, why have cake and ice cream? I suppose the same logic could be applied to the 7 a.m. sunrise service—which I'm told was very beautiful—but not for us, not now. I'm an early morning person, but not for getting out of the house. We barely made it to the 8:00 potluck breakfast as it was. I contributed my customary devilled eggs. This photo is from our 2007 Easter in France, where I learned the trick of dying the whites. The eggs were similar this time, though the colors were darker due to my efforts to use up some old food dye. There were many other wonderful foods on this obviously post-Lenten spread: as the rector remarked, "What else says 'Christ is risen' like sugar-laden carbohydrates?"
The service at which the choir sang was one of those high festivals that include incense, but to my surprise and pleasure, this year it was pleasant and did not choke the choir. I like incense—at least if it's in church and not used for covering up the smell of marijuana smoke, as it was in my college days—but in my previous experience the smoke makes it difficult if not impossible to sing. I don't know if this was a different formulation for the incense, or simply a better distribution, but the choir was grateful.
If you can access Facebook, you should be able to watch the whole service if you so choose.
We had a brass quintet for the occasion (two trumpets, French horn, trombone, and tuba), and that was spectacular. Of course there was much singing, I mean lots and lots of singing: hymns, service music, anthems, clergy, congregation, choir, solo, duet. Also many readings, Baptism and Renewal of Baptismal vows, and of course Communion.
Hymns: Jesus Christ Is Risen Today (of course!); The Strife Is O'er; We Know That Christ Is Raised and Dies No More; The Day of Resurrection. Yes, I missed Hail Thee, Festival Day! but was well-consoled, knowing we will sing it the second Sunday of Easter. Twelve days of Christmas, fifty days of Easter—it's not just wine for Communion and at our parties that shows we know how to celebrate.
Anthems: Sound the Trumpet (duet); Alleluia from Mozart's "Exultate Jubilate" (solo); Ave Maria (with the Children's Choir); Vivaldi's Gloria In Excelsis Deo.
And the postlude? Choir and congregation (plus the clergy, I'm certain) singing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus for a glorious finish!
A few of us from the choir customarily go out to lunch after church, and on Easter our ranks are swelled to party-sized. This year we went to Caffe Positano, not my favorite place, but acceptable—they were able to fit us in, and we were there for the good company anyway. It was after 3 p.m. by the time we were home and partook of one more Easter Sunday tradition: collapsing, and taking the rest of the day off.