Monday, April 1, 2013


As much as I absolutely love the Easter celebrations, I am glad they only happen once a year!  It takes hundreds of people and hundreds of hours to pull together the Triduum and Easter Masses and getting everybody on the same page takes lots of energy.  And the Easter Vigil begins in darkness and quiet.  The calm before the storm.  But in reality, the sacristy does not mirror this before we get started.  It can't.  Not when there are dozens of people who need to get their jobs done.  It is more like the storm before the calm before the storm:
And it doesn't help that I am an introvert.  I need to time to think and process before such an event as the Easter Vigil.  There's lots of things that go on that do not happen the rest of the year and most of the time you just need to remember.  Not one of my strong points.  So I ditched the chaos and went out to where the boy scouts were starting the fire for the beginning of the Mass.
There were a number of compliments concerning the night and how flawless it seemed.  Well, "seemed" would be the operative word.  One of the first things you teach a server is that no matter what you do, make it look like you were supposed to do it.  The clergy and seminarians have an "afterglow" party and call to mind all the things that went wrong that we hope nobody noticed.  Some things were difficult to hide like the flower that fell off of its stand and landed upside down on the altar of repose.  Other things I think we were able to cover:
There are also lots of subtle gestures and facial expressions in order to help move things along in the correct order.  In all of the practicing there are little details that might have been overlooked, or something springs up that we were not expecting, or someone just didn't remember well from practice.  Here are some the facial clues to convey information without overly alerting the congregation that is (hopefully) praying.
One of the strangest sights for me at the Easter Vigil was when Fr. P went over to the ambo to sing the Exultet (in the dark.)  While he was waiting for the congregation to return to their pews after the blessing of the fire, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his Magic Phone and placed it next to his text.  Afterwords at the afterglow we were joking about what he might have been doing.
Sending an Email to the ushers to get the people in more quickly?
Turning on his flashlight app?
Tweeting #I'm singing the Exultet what are you doing?
As it turns out he was turning on his keyboard app in order to get the first note.
"Last year," he informed us, "I started too high and suffered through the rest of the singing.  I was going to start on the right note this year no matter what."  (It was his finest singing of the Exultet yet.)
Today (Easter Monday) the offices are closed.  No school either.  Quiet, quiet, quiet.  People were saying, "Oh Father, it will be a wonderful day for you to spend in peace and get rested up.
Not quite.


Brian Sullivan said...

Were you at my parish Vigil?

MaryofSharon said...

Heh heh! Great to have a behind-the-scenes glance at how it really happened.

Well, all the effort paid off Fr. V., and from where we sat, it did seem flawless. So many details coming together for an extraordinarily beautiful opportunity for worship and celebration. The deep darkness, the plethora of candles, the magnificent organ, the celestial Handel choruses, the fine voice of the cantor (and the clergy!), the abundance of incense, the attention to posture and gesture, strong hymns worthy of the occasion giving due praise to the One whose victory over death we celebrate etc., etc., etc. Your background in the theater (and interest in many of the arts) is a tremendous asset to your priesthood, expressed in the quality of liturgies with which your parish is blessed.

Fr. P's use of his app also paid off. As he sang the first few lines of the Exultet, my daughter who has a lot of choral and voice training, leaned over and with a nod of approval for his voice, said, "That's the priest who almost joined the Marines???" From her, that was a very high compliment.

So much of what our venerable Pope Benedict Emeritus taught us was expressed wonderfully in your sacred Easter Vigil liturgy:

"Art is capable of making visible our need to go beyond what we see, and it reveals our thirst for infinite beauty, for God."

There are "artistic expressions that are true paths to God, the supreme Beauty," which "help nurture our relationship with him in prayer. These are works that are born of faith and express faith."

In the sacred arts we encounter a beauty in which "we can stop and contemplate, in the transition from simple, external reality to a deeper reality, the ray of beauty that strikes us, that almost wounds us in our inner selves and invites us to rise towards God."

lgreen515 said...

This is worth framing. I wish I could print it out.

Maria J. said...

It truly was a beautiful Easter Vigil. And I wanted to congratulate Fr. Pfieffer after Mass on his chanting of the Exultet, but couldn't find him. (Must have snuck out to the after-party early!) Pass along my thanks, please.

"And on the seventh day, God rested." Hopefully this whole week of (liturgical) Sundays will be a break for you, too!

Anonymous said...

Why sing the Exsultet in the dark? The rubric #17 of the Roman Missal for the Easter Vigil specifies that "And lights are lit throughout the Church, except for the altar candles." Then follows the incensing of the "book and candle." Just wondering.....

Anonymous said...

Great job on starting the Alleluia Father, it went much better than last year.