Monday, March 24, 2008
I was holding Ramona (who is getting too big for me to hold through Mass, but I'll take as much of it as I can get before it's gone) and,
just after the "Alleluia," she leaned in close to me and sighed, "It's good to sing the Alleluia again. I've missed it!"
Four years ago, for the first time, I took Anne-with-an-e and Betsy to the Vigil. Atticus stayed home with Ramona, who was not quite two (and we all went to Mass together again in the morning.) I wanted to take just the older girls, for their first experience with the Vigil, so that I could talk, point, and explain. And, it "worked." The girls were awed by the Vigil's beauty. They did fidget a bit (they were 10 and 7 at the time) and occasionally asked, "How much longer?" But they were happy they went, and they've asked to go every year since then.
This was the third year our whole family has attended the Vigil together. The first time we tried it, Ramona was three years old, and she slept through most of it. That was good/bad: good, because we made it through. Bad because it took a loooong time to get her to sleep that night, thus delaying the Easter Bunny's arrival and making for a very tired Mommy Bunny in the morning.
Last year, it went much better because she stayed awake, and this year went well, too. We arrived about 45 minutes early to get a pew (we like to sit close, so the kids can see everything), and that meant planning to keep a little one in her seat for about three hours.
My strategy was to bring along a variety of books: picture books of saints, Treasure Box books, and a coloring or activity book. And, I always tuck something new into her bag. It doesn't have to be expensive, just novel. This year, it wasn't even from me: friends recently sent Ramona a mini sticker album, and she hadn't cracked it open yet. She didn't know it was in her church bag, so when she started fidgeting (we were somewhere into the readings by that time), I pulled it out and it occupied her for quite awhile. Sparkly hearts and stars, foil purses and shoes may not have the Christian significance of her earlier distractions, but they worked.
The other strategy is to really involve kids as much as possible. We ended up in a front row this year, so we had "great seats" for viewing the baptisms. I sometimes talk, point, and explain all through the Easter Vigil. Ramona remembered the "holy fire" from last year, and was disappointed that we didn't have it outside this year (too windy and cold) but she couldn't wait to have her candle lit.
I dearly love the Easter Vigil. It holds sublime memories, of the night I was received into the Church, of course, and when Atticus was as well.
But, it also reminds me of the other Easter Vigils I participated in as part of the RCIA team, preparing and welcoming new members into our Faith. A friend once teased me that I looked like a little mother hen at confessions the day before the Vigil, shuffling my babes to and fro, making sure everyone knew what to do and where to go ... I have to admit that I came to feel a maternal love for each and every catechumen and candidate coming into the Church.
This year was no different. The Vigil moved me.
After what had felt like a fairly "level" and "comfortable" Lent (no huge, new revelations ... no enormous spiritual growth to speak of) I was thinking that, some years, my relationship with God feels like a settled, comfortable phase of marriage. Life proceeds pleasantly, predictably. Without the thrills of the early chase, perhaps, but with the comforting assurance of deep love and complete commitment.
And, I was thinking, "Comfortable is good. Pleasant is good. An 'even' Lent is good."
And then, without warning, they hit me. Tears. Lots of them. Blissful tears, tears of gratitude, of holy exhilaration and indebtedness for the mercy of a God who alters lives. I fell in love all over again.
And, quite suddenly, there seems to have been nothing ordinary or predictable about this Lent at all.
He is risen!