Each year as the end of yet another Lenten season approaches, I am frankly quite sad yet look to Holy Week with a longing which is not easily described. I have noticed that in my experience, church attendance during the Easter Triduum is composed primarily of Catholics who take their faith very seriously. The responses seem to be more reverently proclaimed, the homilies free from external noise and distraction and a general air of community that can seem to be lacking during other weeks. We are truly one body in Christ and I feel it most succinctly during Holy Week.
For the second year in a row, it appears that God has placed people in the pew in front of my family with a special purpose during the Easter Vigil. I have been called to pray for them in a very special way, and last night as we immersed ourselves into the arising joy of the Mass, I decided that I should see it as an honor. You see, the five people directly in front of us were probably surprised that the Mass was vastly different from what they may have attended from time to time. (Yes, I said from time to time). They arrived a few minutes prior to the start of Mass and were all clad in jeans and what I would refer to as 'comfy' clothing. Two young men were accompanied by a couple of young ladies and what I believe to be the mother of one of the young women. Both couples appeared to be physically intertwined at all times and each couple moved as if conjoined.
Mother and daughter were both chewing bubble gum vigorously and each of the five appeared to be quite intrigued with the lighting of the new fire. All was good until a young priest began to proclaim the long form of the Exsultet. Unhushed chatter permeated the remainder of the two hours though I had long since decided that I would offer up the Mass for the people in front of us. I will no longer beleaguer the topic and only wish to share that I wondered what they did with their bubble gum when the two chewers approached the Holy Eucharist and Blood of Christ. At one point, I was so moved I reached out my hand behind them below the back of the pew and boldly asked the Holy Spirit to come to these people in the name of Jesus. I looked at my husband beside me to see if my gesture had been noticed and it apparently had not.
Having enjoyed fully this Lenten season and the spiritual fruits it has borne into my life once again, I look forward to next year with joyful anticipation. Thankfully, we have 50 days of Easter to celebrate and of course, as Catholics 'we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song' as St. Augustine so eloquently once said. I wonder if this little 'tradition' God and I have going at the Easter Vigil will continue next year. Certainly only He knows and I'm well aware that He will let me know the answer in His own time.
I leave you with a bit of the Exsultet and pray that you and I may go forth as commissioned Christians sharing the Word and cleaving to God most merciful:
Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!Dominus vobiscum.