Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ever ancient, ever new

In the 1980's, Latin was a taboo language in Catholic liturgy in the US -- one of the Church's traditional practices that was mercilessly mocked during the frenzied modernization that followed Vatican II. There's nothing new about that in church history -- every council is followed by a period of unsettledness. I will leave it to historians to determine if the post-Vatican II decades were comparable to other such times or uniquely chaotic due to the intensely rapid changes taking place in the culture at large.

So what Frs. Szupper & Keegan of the University of Delaware's Thomas More Oratory did one year at the Easter Vigil was a surprise and a delight. This was especially so because at the time the Oratory had the reputation for being the "hippest" church in the diocese. ("The bishop already thinks that if you want something radical done, go to the Oratory because they'll do anything," Fr. Keegan told me when he was trying to get me to have my marriage regularized in the Church. Bill and I were both lectors at the Oratory at the time, and he wanted to point out the possible cause for scandal among other things.)

The Oratory was dark that Easter Vigil, except for the Easter fire burning in the gathering space and the just-lit pascal candle.

"Lest we forget," Fr. Szupper announced softly from the darkness. Then he prayed the Exultet in reverent spoken word English while Fr. Keegan sang it beautifully in Latin in the background.

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!


Haec sunt enim festa paschalia,
in quibus verus ille Agnus occiditur,
cuius sanguine postes fidelium consecrantur.

Haec nox est,
in qua primum patres nostros, filios Israel
eductos de Aegypto,
Mare Rubrum sicco vestigio transire fecisti.

Haec igitur nox est,
quae peccatorum tenebras columnae illuminatione purgavit.

Haec nox est,
quae hodie per universum mundum in Christo credentes,
a vitiis saeculi et caligine peccatorum segregatos,
reddit gratiae, sociat sanctitati.

Haec nox est,
in qua, destructis vinculis mortis,
Christus ab inferis victor ascendit.

Nihil enim nobis nasci profuit,
nisi redimi profuisset.
O mira circa nos tuae pietatis dignatio!
O inaestimabilis dilectio caritatis:
ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti!

O certe necessarium Adae peccatum,
quod Christi morte deletum est!
O felix culpa,
quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem!

O vere beata nox,
quae sola meruit scire tempus et horam,
in qua Christus ab inferis resurrexit!

Haec nox est, de qua scriptum est:
Et nox sicut dies illuminabitur:
et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis.

Huius igitur sanctificatio noctis fugat scelera, culpas lavat:
et reddit innocentiam lapsis
et maestis laetitiam.
Fugat odia, concordiam parat
et curvat imperia.

O vere beata nox,
in qua terrenis caelestia, humanis divina iunguntur!"

Listening & praying along, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise and my nose prickle.

Today I ran across another thing that reminded me of the richness inherent in the Church's journey through time -- ever ancient, ever new, like its Founder. I found it on the Intentional Disciples blog.

The Intentional Disciples blog is an oasis of intelligent inspiration in an increasingly snarky Catholic blogosphere. Sherry Weddell posted a useful link recently to an interactive guide to the station churches of Rome. It is keyed to the days of Lent. Each entry has a history of the church along with some images that when click enlarge to nearly fill the screen.

I am going to try to remember to come back to it throughout this Lenten season.