It's been quite a day. In fact, the whole of the Triduum, from Thursday evening to tomorrow, is an ecclesiastical marathon of which I was totally unaware until I was in my mid-twenties, when I became a part for the very first time of the service we attended this evening. Then it was all new, all exotic, and entirely impromptu - the then Bishop of Argyll, having tea with the St Maura Singers, our quartet, in Cumbrae, asked if any of us had ever been to the service of the New Light, and would we like to do it with him? And one way or another, with breaks when we had a priest who didn't do that sort of thing, we've been doing it every Easter.
The day began with meeting Di at the church, already busy with the flower people doing amazing things with not just flowers but candles, exotic candle stands, mini amphorae, hangings, lights, more flowers ...We were doing the more childish thing, building the Easter Garden in the recess under the altar, reusing the moss of Gethsemane and paying careful attention to the detail of which gospel story was being used this year. (If I tell you we had to find the Swooping Ladies, it'll give you an idea of how much fun this is.)
By the time I'd done this, I was already feeling the effects of the flowers in church and wondering if I'd bitten off more than I could
chew sing by saying I could still sing the Exultet. By the time the evening came, I'd depressed myself further by watching the wonderful Olivia Coleman in The Favourite - if you missed it it's on catchup - which seemed to reinforce my feelings of decrepitude. I went out into the garden and gave myself a pep talk ...
And we headed back to church for the first Eucharist of Easter. Some people do this at sunrise, and I expect there might be those who hold their service sometime after midnight, but we lit our New Fire when the blackbird was still singing in the church grounds and processed the Paschal Candle into the church which was by now pretty dark. I sang the 12 or so minutes of plainsong from the lectern, a pool of light surrounded by the candles of the congregation, and when that was over the resurrection was announced. As we responded with our Alleluias the lights came on, the bells were rung, the organ blared out with a great fanfare ...it's quite an experience.
I've tried to give a flavour of the evening in the collage - the fire in the grounds, the altar with its Easter Garden, the flowers, the candles, the renewal of Baptismal Vows when we were all sprinkled with water from the font - and what one of the congregation described as a lock-in in the narthex after the service when we celebrated with a last glass of bubbles. It's a heady mixture of mystery and joy, and I feel inadequate in the conveying of it, but I'm exultant nonetheless.
Happy Easter, whatever you believe!