A “Novel” Easter Tradition

Anyone else a fan of pseudo-religious historical novels? Let’s just put it out there- Dan Brown and the rest are pretty shady on their facts! But sometimes they’re fun. Anyway, in almost every one of these novels, there’s a scene of a midnight initiation into some secret cult- where the meaning of hidden symbols is told, where the mysteries are revealed. They’re spine-tingling, fascinating, and often scary scenes. Because in the novels, the secret cult is almost always full of bad guys, and there’s usually a bloody stone knife in there somewhere.

Would it surprise you to know that behind these fictions lies a kernel of truth about the Christian tradition?

Early, early Christians had a midnight initiation rite by firelight, using our ancient symbols, in which they told the stories of their faith, and celebrated its deepest mysteries. This initiation was baptism, and it happened at the Easter Vigil Service.

The beauty of our initiation rite, of course, is that it is for absolutely everyone, not a secret few. Our faith contains deep mystery, but we are to tell it to the world. And at the heart of our stories is goodness, and life, and a desire for well-being of all the world. Our Easter Vigil tells a deep truth about God’s love, and how it is poured out for you, and about life triumphing over death!

The early Christians gathered on the Saturday before Easter, by firelight, to tell and read all the Scripture stories about God’s salvation throughout all time, then to baptize new members and celebrate communion together as the Risen Body of Christ. The forty days before Easter were a time of teaching new Christians what it means to be baptized into the body of Christ- this time of study and preparation is what we now call Lent.

In that great tradition, the highlight of our Easter weekend will be our Easter Vigil (April 23 at 8:30 pm). Like our sisters and brothers of old, we’ll tell the stories of our faith around a fire, culminating in the great mystery of Jesus’ triumph over death. (No bloody stone knives, I promise!) We’ll process inside, remember our baptisms (splashing each other with water!) and share the bread and wine. It’s a service of beauty and awe.

And like the earliest Christians, we’ll spend Lent learning those stories. Every week, beginning March 9th, we’ll gather after Wednesday Vespers for a simple soup supper, and we’ll talk about the 12 readings of the great Vigil. Some of our congregation’s best storytellers and readers have been preparing to lead us.

(I said we’ll be remembering our baptisms, but if there are any of you who have not been baptized and are thinking you’d like to be, this is a good time to talk to me right away!)

Of course we’ll have all the other services of Holy Week that you are accustomed to- see our schedule inside this newsletter. I look forward to celebrating with you Christ’s resurrection in all of these, but especially our great, spine-tingling, awe-inspiring Easter Vigil.

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