Outside the church, as always, there was a metal brazier full of fire. This year it was windy and the sparks were being pulled off and sent spinning and curling from it, so bright. The sky was rapidly darkening to night. At the fire the towering Easter candle was lit, and then we went into the gathering space in the church, and everyone's individual candle was lit, people passing the flame one to the next.
Then we went into the church itself, which was very dark. Only the very bright flame from the Easter candle up front, and all the pinpoints of light from the congregation's tiny candles. It was like looking at a night sky full of stars, or if dew on grass could glow with light and the rest of the morning be dark. Then the cantor sang the Exsultet. In the darkness with all those pinpricks of light, with that ancient plainsong, I'm always overcome.
You know in physics the idea that we can never reach the speed of light, but theoretically, we can approach near it? The Easter Vigil mass does this with eternity, opens up a moment of it. Your senses are overwhelmed, your mind filled with the smallest most precious things and the greatest, most incomprehensible ones, and in that state time isn't.
Tears always spring to my eyes when they mention the bees:
This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.
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