|CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS
FROM THE 101 OVERPASS ON HOPE STREET
JUST BEFORE HOLY THURSDAY MASS
Later, in the chapter house, Abbess Catherine, girded with a towel, would kneel before twelve of her daughters, drawn by lot—”I must cut my toe-nails,” Dame Nichola had said in panic—and reverently wash their fret, just as Christ did to his apostles. “I have set you an example,” He told them, “to teach you what to do.” That night the Mass re-enacted the Last Supper, when Jesus took bread and broke it, took wine, and spoke the words that consecrated then and gave them to his disciples, the gift to the world for all time, of the Eucharist. Then, just as Christ had gone from the upper room to the garden of Gethsemane and was seized in the midst of his disciples, so the Host was taken from the altar’s tabernacle and borne in procession to a small side altar made welcoming with flowers and candles; the church was left stark, the high altar stripped of its linen, the doors of the empty tabernacle flung open. Bells were replaced by the dry sound of clappers.
For the long hours of the Good Friday vigil, a heavy wooden crucifix lay before the empty tabernacle as the nuns chanted and prayed the terrible saga through. The names mingled: Judas, Malchus, Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, Simon of Cyrene: the women of Jerusalem, the two thieves, and the centurion: the two Marys who stood with our Lady at the foot of the cross. “The women didn’t run away,” said the Abbess.
Christ died and, as if the Abbey had died too, came the long pause of Holy Saturday— “Surely the longest day in the year,” said Dame Beatrice—until at night, hope came hack to the Church as, long ago, hope had come to the apostles. The new fire was kindled in the church porch, the huge Paschal candle, inscribed with the date of the civil year and painted with symbols of the Resurrection, was lit from that new fire and the priest took the first step inside the darkened empty church; he raised the candle and cried “Lumen Christi”—the light of Christ. Three times the cry echoed as the new light was passed from candle to candle, the boy servers who came from the town lighting their candles from the great one and bringing them to the wicket, where the Abbess met them with hers; she passed the fire to the rows of nuns, each holding her candle until the whole church was illuminated.
As the candles caught their light one from another. Cecily had a vision of the flame hunting in the same way from one church to another throughout Christendom, far around the world: new light, new joy, fresh hope. Thousands of candles, pure wax, wax of bees, made through the year by the wings and work of infinitesimal creatures like us, thought Cecily, made for this night. “This is the night,” intoned the priest, “the night on which heaven was wedded to earth. On this night Christ broke the bonds of death,” and, “The night shall be as light as day, the night shall light up my joy.”
The priest blessed the new water and led the renewal of baptismal vows until, just before midnight, Mass began, the first Mass of Easter, when linen, flowers, and candlesticks were brought back to the altar as the celebrant began the opening of the Gloria, ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo…’ Every bell, every stop on the organ, every voice joined in the triumphant response, ‘Glory to God on high,’ and it was Easter Sunday.
|ALONG THE OUTDOOR STATIONS OF THE CROSS
ON GOOD FRIDAY–
HE IS RISEN!