Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Easter Vigil

The pastor of the parish where we celebrated the Feast of Saint Joseph called to ask whether we'd be coming to their Easter Vigil this past Saturday evening. That would have been nice, and I might have been able to succeed in getting there, except for the fact that our Easter Vigil here on Post started at 2000 hours (8 p.m.) and lasted almost 2.5 hours. Their Vigil was going to start at 11 p.m., and I knew I'd just be too wiped out even to attempt it, especially given that it would take about 45 minutes just to drive there.

The Polish and Ukrainian contingents here on Post both have a Catholic priest assigned to them, neither of whom speaks any English. There is probably a certain symmetry in the fact that I can speak no Polish or Ukrainian....

Given how central the Easter Vigil is to our religious traditions, I invited each of them to participate in the liturgy. For the Poles, this is not a big deal, as they use the same worship format as we do. For the Ukrainians, however, this is more of a challenge, since they use the worship format of the Serbian Orthodox (though in Ukrainian, rather than Serbian, of course).

In the Roman Rite we have seven readings from the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures before the Epistle and Gospel. I'd envisioned having each language group take turns with those seven, starting with the Poles. As it turned out, the Ukrainians don't do those readings, so we had three readings in Polish and four in English before the Epistle and Gospel. It worked out fine for the non-Polish-speakers, as we had all the readings in English, and therefore could follow along.

One of the Soldiers from North Dakota has a beautiful, lyric soprano voice, and she sang all of the Responsorial Psalms in English as we made our way through the extended Liturgy of the Word. Given the reduced light in the building during that time of the liturgy, she and our accompanist (Mr. H) did a masterful job. Hearing her clear voice ring out in the almost-darkness for each of those psalms created a great sense of continuity as we listened to the history of salvation being proclaimed in different voices and languages.

SSG L left for his mid-tour leave early in Holy Week, so had he not recruited a couple of great acolytes before he left, I'd really have been in a pickle. Those two young men did a great job, including finding out just beforehand that each would be proclaiming one of the readings during the Liturgy of the Word. Thanks, SPC R and SPC M!

We've had a very active program of sacramental preparation, called the Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults, over the time since we arrived here in Kosovo, and one of our Soldiers made his Profession of Faith in the Catholic Church after the Liturgy of the Word, and then we celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation with him. On the Second Sunday of Easter we'll Confirm two other Soldiers who had been baptized as Catholics somewhat earlier in their lives. SFC B was very excited about the Easter Vigil and becoming a full member of the Roman Church.

The Polish priest prayed the Eucharistic Prayer in Polish, and then the Ukrainian priest sang a number of prayers in Ukrainian as well.

Христос воскрес! Воістину воскрес!
Khristus Zmartvikstau! Zaiste Zmartvikstau!
Christ is risen!  Indeed he is risen!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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