So a group of priests were talking about the Triduum services – from Maundy Thursday through the Easter Vigil. One thing lamented was that there were not more people at these various celebrations. (Apparently we were a bit better attended than many other parishes for these specific events.) So the conversation turned naturally to what can be done to increase attendance. Some of the suggestions were to adjust the times. 7:00PM was too late for Thursday, 3:00 is too early on Friday, and the Easter Vigil (in our diocese it was decreed that we have this Mass at 9:15) was too late. All of the times should be adjusted in order to make them more convenience and therefor more attractive.
The Easter Vigil was critiqued for being too long which exacerbated the problem of it starting rather late. Also Thursday and Friday were too penitential and Saturday was not celebratory (or relevant) enough.
“If we begin the Easter Vigil before it is night out will anybody go to hell?” was put forth. Well, no. At least not for that reason simply. But then again, why do we do anything? What if we didn’t make the Sign of the Cross with holy water in the way into church? Would God consign the Church to hell for no longer doing this? What if we bowed instead of genuflected before the Blessed Sacrament? Will Divine Justice want us to suffer the eternal fires of hell for this? What if the priest faced sideways instead of facing the same way or confronting the people? None of these would bring on eternal damnation. But we do these things just the same and sometimes it is damn inconvenient. But people in love do things that are damn inconvenient, extravagant, and sometimes silly by a practical standpoint.
Granted that we do not want to put anything too taxing in the way of celebrating the mysteries of the faith. Conversely we don’t want to make the practice of the faith trivial. (If you have time and nothing else more important to you is happening, consider, maybe, coming to Mass.) As one of the priests present (later) put it, “I don’t want it to be more convenient for those who were not there in order to make it so that they come and keep looking at their watches considering when they might escape. Like Midnight Mass or Thanksgiving Day Mass, only those who really want to be there are there.” All true love is sacrificial. If you want assurances that you will be out in under an hour at a convenient time, come on Sunday.
This is not to put down the Easter Sunday goers. You are there! Sad are those who cannot bother to celebrate and thank God with their brothers and sisters at all. It is for this latter set that it seems we always want to make concessions to at least get them in the pew. But how many concessions can one make before you have nothing grand to say?