Before we close on book on the Easter Season of 2018, it might be time to reflect upon an undeniable issue of the Triduum, the observance of the Easter Vigil. At least two articles came across my desk or email box in recent weeks. Father James Martin of America Magazine writes “Is the Easter Vigil Too Long?” and a fellow blogger from “Pray Tell” kicks off a very interesting stream of responses to his post, “What Does It Mean That So Few Attend the Triduum Liturgies?” My wife and I attend the Vigil every year, and I would have to say that attendance at the Vigil is always a disappointment, particularly given all the parish investment of time and energy to the Catechumenate.
Two thoughts immediately come to mind. First, while the ritual of the Easter Vigil is faithfully observed by the book in my parish and certainly in many others, the optics of the rite strongly proclaim the nature of the event as a special evening for Catechumens [i.e., those receiving Baptism and the other sacraments of initiation). There is something of a Quinceanera flavor to the rite. I feel as if for a good hour of the rite, at least, I am an observer or a well-wisher; the concept of the Vigil as a rebirth of all the baptized gets washed away in the backsplash of the baptismal pool. The local and universal language regarding participation in this rite is heavy on Vulcan mind-melding. Unfortunately, our sacramental system is much more visceral and physical than the present Vigil rite allows.
Second, the Easter Vigil is the night when our shallow catechetics return to bite us. The responders to the “Pray Tell” blog are very pointed on this subject. The concept of the three-day observance of the drama of Redemption is simply not in Catholic consciousness. This is more of a formative question than a liturgical one. There are no obvious compelling reasons that attract wholesale Catholic attention.
It is worth noting that my parish’s outdoor sunrise Mass attracted only a few less people than the original Woodstock Festival of 1969.