The sights, sounds and scents of Holy Week that so permeate our remembrance of Easter are indeed rooted in centuries of tradition. One look around and one immediately sees layers of history and meaning in every ritual movement, prayers embedded within the hearts of a people of faith. From the swish of the robes, to the smell of frankincense and lilies, and the lofty notes of the Exsultet sung we are drawn into the sacredness of this moment in time. More than a sign, these symbols call us to look beyond the object itself to something deeper, more meaningful, and often mysterious to be truly experienced in this same multi-layered way.
Was there one special moment that stood out for you? Did you feel the invitation to connect, to go deeper and answer God with the fullness of your heart?
After countless Triduum masses, I have found that only rarely is the answer ever the same. That is the beauty of opening yourself up to the experience of the mysteries of Holy Week again and again. Personally, I never tire of hearing the profound impressions and recollections that are taken forth from a mass. Or even the silent expression of joy or love that rests of the faces of those in attendance as they leave the doors of the church.
This all happens in spite of our best efforts, our missteps and last minute adjustments made in the course of preparation of the mass. God perfects and works through all of our faults to reach out to each person gathered in community. If but for an instant, I am certain of the unworthiness of my own efforts I am also reminded of the One far greater than myself. For that I am so truly thankful!
With that being said..those that serve for these masses carry with them the stories of errors and omissions and how God worked through all for good. One such year, due to windy weather, the option to light the Pascal fire indoors was made. Needless to say, the addition of extra isopropyl alcohol was a perfect mix to set off the silent smoke alarms, thereby alerting the fire department. The dark church, gathered for Easter Vigil, was filled with swirling red lights, and the entrance of several concerned firemen. All this unbeknownst to our beloved priest who was enthralled in singing the Exsultet and had his back to the congregation. None noted that evening that this detracted from the mass, but had in fact added to the sense of community already present.
I thought of this story as we were waiting to make the call for the fire at this year’s Easter Vigil with the promise of high winds throughout the day. Though this concern was averted, just minutes before the start of mass we found ourselves furiously working to put together more individual votive candles. The box of holders, placed near the ceiling could only be reached with the hook of the snuffer and the long arm of the priest…while standing on the counter top!
With God’s presence as the only guarantee- through the years, I have determined these are my top 5 tips for altar servers.
- In serving, it’s all about what God does in the celebration of the mass. Work as if to blend into the scene. Be well rested, fed, on time, and joyful.
- There is a significant need for ponytail holders. Why? Because, girls, the overabundance of candles present at Holy Week and long hair do not mix well.
- Thurifers: Do not rest the thurible on the carpet or under the hem of the your robe. There is no need for a new martyr of the faith due to complacency.
- Do your best and give God the rest. Rather than becoming anxious over what you did or failed to do, let God work through it.
- Sing and pray- You are there to serve but it’s important that you too recognize the invitation to participate and pause for God’s voice.
With Easter Joy,