While Easter Vigil has been one of my favorite services of the year as long as I've been a Christian, there's always been something about it that feels like cheating. At the end of the service it's still dark, and the calendar still says it's Saturday. For all the service's mystery (beginning in darkness with the new fire, and recounting the history of human creation and salvation) and majesty (the sudden illumination of the altar, the masses of flowers, the dramatic organ fanfare and return of the Gloria), it also seems like it may be elaborate cover to get to the end of Lent a few hours early.
Last night, after the Maundy Thursday service, people signed up to keep watch in the Michael Chapel with the reserved sacrament, as a way of trying to connect to the experience of the disciples praying with Jesus in the garden before his betrayal. I signed up for the 4am slot.
I don't see 4am very often, so I was surprised that sitting in the chapel that the two sounds I noticed most were the FedEx jets flying overhead and the twittering birds. We all know that birds rouse themselves before dawn, but three hours before? I guess I knew that intellectually, but hadn't experienced it for a while.
So birds twitter in the dark, sure of the coming of the sun. And our celebration of Easter vigil is similar. We tweet in the dark, sure of the resurrection of the Lord, rejoicing while most others sleep.
The Great Vigil of Easter is this Saturday night at 9pm. The service lasts about two hours. A festive reception will follow in the back of the church. I hope you'll join us.