I would like to tell you something interesting that happened for my Easter present. It was these two things:
- My parish did not cancel the regularly-scheduled Sunday evening Mass on Easter.
- I went to it.
The whole story isn’t so important, but we must emphasize, concerning #2, that I was not being one of these venerable church-helping souls who ends up at three different Masses on the holiday. Though I be a Triduum-loving girl to the core, and though I certainly did not mean to completely forget my child was supposed to be altar-serving at Adoration on Wednesday evening during Holy Week either, the fact of this year is that I did not darken any church door from the time I walked out with my palm in hand a week earlier until I shook off my umbrella and slipped inside for that evening Mass very late in the day on Easter.
How did I get to this place in my life?
By car. I was down in Atlanta, where the plan was that I’d go either to the coveted 8AM at the basilica (please oh please) or catch one of the later, more crowded Masses, language TBD. Then it came to my attention, as I was grabbing the car to go shove in at the last possible English-language Mass of the morning, that if instead I pointed my vehicle in a safe direction, even with Atlanta traffic I could reasonably be home in time to attend the last Mass at my very own parish.
This was good for everybody’s soul, because it thus created a couple more square feet of standing room at the basilica, and it saved me from having to stretch my Therese-like virtue into the near-occasion-of-sin zone.
So we got home, unpacked most of the car, lounged about for a bit, and then headed over for the evening Mass. I prayed, found my hymns, stood when it was time to stand. What fascinated me about this novel beast, the “Sunday Evening Easter Mass,” was that it was both all the slouchy goodness of every Sunday evening, and all the Easter-intensity of any proper feast of the Resurrection.
I’m fairly certain there’s a Vatican II document explaining that Sunday Evening is when we give pride of place to contemporary choirs. I took dark pleasure in horrifying my classically-indoctrinated daughter by reveling in the way the guitar and piano could fill the nave and bring those American R’s to full fruit.
But where Our Lord had me was at the Gloria. There was a refrain to the setting, borrowed from the Douay-Rheims playbook: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.
Peace to people of good will. That is what our Lord’s arrival heralded: The bringing of peace, eternal peace, to any of us willing to have it.
If Lent is the school for evangelization, Easter is the annual re-certification ceremony. The Cross prepares us, the Resurrection shoves us out the door.
So here’s something exciting and beautiful about a Sunday evening Mass: It isn’t a cultural event. It’s not a family tradition. If you were going to dress up and go out someplace in order to please your mother on Easter, the Sunday evening Mass is not that place.
Sunday evening is where the people who love God and couldn’t get to church earlier drag themselves in at the last minute to quick put their souls to rights. It is impossible to keep a straight face while saying, “Oh yes, I’m very holy” and “I go to the last-chance Mass.”
So, about that peace for people of good will. If the Triduum gives birth to Easter at the Vigil, and Sunday morning is when chubby, gurgling Baby Easter gets paraded around for the family, it’s that last-chance-for-the-Resurrection on Sunday night when Easter gets toddler legs and starts running through the pews.
The virtuous Masses talk about it, but Sunday Evening Easter is the thing, in action: God entered time to save you from the mess you’ve made of it. Even late as it is, He’s still after you, stretching out that hand, urging you to let Him catch you up into Himself.
Artwork: Illumination from the Passionary of Weissenau (Weißenauer Passionale); Fondation Bodmer, Coligny, Switzerland; Cod. Bodmer 127, fol. 144r, circa 1170 and 1200. Source http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/list/one/cb/0127 [Public Domain] via Wikimedia.
In other artwork, my next door neighbor brings to my attention I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which is awfully much like an Easter song. A Triduum song, really.
Happy Triumph at the Gates of Hell Week.