Families may need to revisit the prayers of the Easter Vigil to reflect more deeply on the mysteries they have celebrated.
Before the evening of reflection, prepare the room in advance by placing a glass bowl of water and a large tray of sand (the sand should be deep enough to support a candle) onto a low table. Decorate the table with a simple vase of flowers and a crucifix with the Risen Christ. Place a box of white taper candles under the table (test in advance to make sure the candles will fit safely in the tray of sand). The room should remain quite dim. When the families arrive, give them all nametags and gather them outside the door to the room where the main meditation will take place. Place a large, white pillar candle in the center of a small table covered with a white cloth. Open a missal to the liturgy for the Easter Vigil. This reflection works best when the various prayers have been copied onto small index cards in advance.
Announce that tonight we will revisit these most precious prayers of the Easter Vigil so that we can reflect on what we experienced on that “most holy night” of the year. Distribute the different cards with the prayers on them. Then explain that when we have finished reflecting on the prayer of blessing the Easter Candle, we will have a procession into the room. Explain that a procession is prayerful walking. Also explain that the procession will stop three times; when the candle is lifted into the air, the leader will proclaim “The Light of Christ,” and everyone else should answer, “Thanks be to God.”
Then, whoever has the first card may begin by reading, “Dear friends in Christ…” Allow a short silence. Perhaps repeat the key phrase: “When… Christ passed from death to life…” Then point out that this is also our journey, as Christians.
The second card contains the blessing of the new fire. After this second card is read, announce that we have all been invited to “the feast of eternal light.”
Each phrase of the preparation of the candle should be on a separate card, so that eight different children have the opportunity to read a small bit of the blessing and trace a part of the cross or one of the symbols on the side of the candle with their thumbs.
Light the candle. Then the next person reads the prayer, “May the light of Christ…”
After that, lead the procession into the room that has been prepared. Remember to stop three times to announce, “The Light of Christ” and pause until the response, “Thanks be to God” is finished.
Indicate that all may be seated around the low table and place the white pillar beside the bowl of water.
The next card will be the first stanza of the Exsultet: “Rejoice, heavenly powers!…” For the sake of the children present, choose only three stanzas of this beautiful prayer. Perhaps the other two could be as follows: “Accept this Easter candle …” and then, “May the Morning Star…” Lead the whole group in singing, “Amen.”
Then read one of the resurrection accounts from the Gospel. John 20:11-18 is very moving and beautiful. When the solemn reading is concluded, call each person forward (it is very important to call them by name – if this poses any difficulty, make sure to give out nametags before beginning). As each person comes forward, light a small taper from the big pillar, hold it so that they can touch it if they wish, announce, “Receive the Light of Christ,” and then place it upright and still lit in the tray of sand. When candles have been lit for each person present, allow a rich silence, during which the group can enjoy the light. Then sing all the Alleluia’s and Easter songs you know!
Here are some ideas for linking parish picnics or fun days to the liturgy of the day:
1. Bring the liturgy to the party. Invite the parish priest to the site where the event will be held. After an initial round of games, crafts, or icebreaker activities, have Mass in the open air. Hold the meal and the singing afterwards.
2. Invite the event planners to help prepare the liturgy. An experienced liturgist could present the event planners with choices among various appropriate songs and prayers of petition. The event planners could be responsible for enlisting the aid of extraordinary ministers, lectors, cantors, and ushers who will also be involved in the event so that recreation and worship might be seen as a “seamless garment.” Decorating the church for the liturgy might be seen as simply part of planning for the event. Appropriate floral arrangements might be placed both within the church, as well as at the site of the event.
3. Researching various traditions surrounding the observance of feasts and saint’s days might yield interesting connections. For example, Trinity Sunday provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate parish unity. Various ministries and other parish groups could set up tables with information or even take part in a parish “parade” that could involve children on decorated bicycles and tricycles. Children from the various groups could assist with some of the responsibilities at the Mass following the parade (where appropriate) and then there could be a great potluck agape in the Church basement.
On the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, decorate the tables with glass bowls of water with petals or floating candles (to recall Saint John’s role in the Baptism of our Lord). A dunking tub, car wash fundraiser, or water balloon toss might tie in nicely with the theme. A morning event, such as a brunch, might be a lovely opportunity to introduce the recitation of Lauds. All may learn a sung version of the Benedictus.
On August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, instead of a May crowning, the parish could place a wreath of flowers at the feet of an image of Mary, or even a small globe. The Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from The Rites, Volume II, can be used for this purpose with only slight adaptation. After Mass, hold a “Coronation ball” at which all can toast the Queen of Heaven. Have the choir practice a medley of Marian hymns to be sung at this event.
4. At sporting events, consider making the rule that all players who wish to participate must first attend Mass in their team uniforms.
5. Just as coffee and donuts are sometimes offered after Sunday Mass, a bonfire with cider and s’mores might be offered after the Saturday vigil Mass.
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