Easter Sunday, 20 April 2014
What must the disciples have felt when they found the tomb empty! When they realised that, no, Jesus was not dead but that He had risen exactly as He had promised? Did they jump from foot to foot? Or fall to the ground in praise? Did they shout for joy? Burst into song? They certainly rushed to tell the others, no doubt stumbling and breathless with overwhelming excitement, gasping the words out: “He’s alive! Remember what He said? We can’t believe it! Tell, tell, is it really really true? Yes! The stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty!” All talking at once, crowding round each other, astonished as they tried to get their heads round this extraordinary event.
Perhaps this is how we, too, will come to Mass this Easter Sunday, stunned with the belief that the Resurrection is true, for all men and for all time.
Will we, too, dance from foot to foot and shout for joy? Probably not, we may well sing, and the hymn, the first line of which heads this Commonplace is likely to be one of several. I bet the 11th century Wipo (now there’s a name to conjure with, who was he?) to whom the words are attributed, would be amazed at the hymn’s popularity. The origin of the glorious music is unknown – any suggestions?
I do love a good hymn. It rouses the old Protestant in me – and years of singing in the village church (ultra low), and in the high church on the hill in London (smells and bells), and in the choir at school. We sang Hymns Ancient and Modern, with Bach, Hayden and Holst thrown in for good measure. The Battle Hymn of the American Republic is still one of my favorites:
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, He hath trampled down the vineyards where the grapes of wrath have stood…”
Not, I fear, suitable for my funeral…
The Church of England certainly comes out tops in my book as regards choral church music – even the choristers in St Peter’s in Rome sound thin on an everyday occasion. As a family we have been singing for the last 50+ years in whichever local Catholic parish church we belonged to. On the whole Catholics are rotten community singers unless you happen to have a convert Anglican parish priest, in which case he most likely has the voice of a Pavarotti.
Ours does. He has introduced new music, and encouraged the formation of two choirs and the composition of new Mass settings. As if that were not enough, he is responsible for the building of a tremendous organ from transplanted parts of defunct instruments collected from all over the UK. Imagine an organ graveyard where one can buy spare parts… As a congregation we “sponsored” the pipes with romantic names like gamba, open diapason, and bombarde. Initially it was Merlin’s bequest that was responsible and yes, that WAS her name and I remember her well, she was devout parishioner and ace flower arranger. Quite what we will sing for Easter is yet to be revealed but not, I think, the Hallelujah Chorus, despite our growing skill and confidence.
A review of the usual missed opportunities during Lent throws up the usual regrets, the why didn’t I’s and the why did I’s. One can offer them up with sorrow and a sincere promise, then turn the page. “God is merciful” in every religion one can think of, is He not? Easter is the Feast on which to be reconciled, to God and neighbour. Reconciliation and celebration, the face of the season.
So let’s truly rejoice, for “He is risen, indeed He is risen!”
Virginia’s Easter table 2014