Easter Triumph! Easter Joy!

For the past 5 years, I have had the privilege of being the organist for the Nashotah House Theological Seminary Easter Vigil, as I served as associate organist there while my husband was a student, and we live near enough for me to continue to participate even now. This year, when I was invited, though I really REALLY wanted to play, we decided that we would instead attend an Easter Vigil where we could sit together as a family.  (Scott is beginning a new job as Rector of Trinity Church in Baraboo, WI in June, and we are eager to participate in their historic Easter Vigil once we start there. More on that in a future post!)

So we all piled into the van last night – all SIX of us, from 7 months on up – and drove about an hour to downtown Milwaukee to the Episcopal Cathedral of All Saints.  Getting there on time, with babies fed, children pottied, and all coloring books/reading material in place was no small task. But we did it. It’s a 2-hour service – and this was a shortened one! – so we settled in. 

 

And oh. my. word.

 

I am so glad that we did!

 

(and the kids did great. that helped!!)

 

The Easter Vigil is, without a doubt, my most favorite service of the church year – the holiest night – the night when the drama that is Eucharistic worship comes to a passionate climax. We begin with the lighting of the New Fire outside — the church is mostly dark as dusk has fallen… the sound and smell of the fire are distinct in the chilly [ok. COLD. it was like 37 degrees] spring air… from that fire, after prayer, the new Paschal Candle for the year is lit and slowly processed into the church, as the deacon sings “The Light of Christ” and the congregation replies “thanks be to God”. We all have candles, and the light from the Paschal Candle is shared with the room, one candle at a time. 

 

It is in this hushed light that the Deacon then comes to the front of the room and sings the Exsultet – pretty much the reason to go to a vigil. It kicks into high Theological gear at the bold section near the end – the part where the goosebumps start for me:

Then the Deacon, or other person appointed, standing near the Candle,
sings or says the Exsultet, as follows 

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, 

 

and let your trumpets shout Salvation 
for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth, 
bright with a glorious splendor, 
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church, 
and let your holy courts, in radiant light, 
resound with the praises of your people.

   All you who stand near this marvelous and holy flame, 
   pray with me to God the Almighty 
   for the grace to sing the worthy praise of this great light; 
   through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
   who lives and reigns with him, 
   in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
   one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

              The Lord be with you. 
Answer      And also with you. 
Deacon      Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. 
Answer      It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Deacon

It is truly right and good, always and everywhere, with our

whole heart and mind and voice, to praise you, the invisible,

almighty, and eternal God, and your only-begotten Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who
at the feast of the Passover paid for us the debt of Adam’s sin,
and by his blood delivered your faithful people.

This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children
of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the
Red Sea on dry land.

This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered
from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness
of life.

This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, 
and rose victorious from the grave.

   How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your
   mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you
   gave a Son.

   How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and
   sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy
   to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings
   peace and concord.

   How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined
   and man is reconciled to God.

Holy Father, accept our evening sacrifice, the offering of this
candle in your honor. May it shine continually to drive away
all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no
setting, find it ever burning–he who gives his light to all
creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. 
Amen.

 

Keep in mind that this is one deacon, singing unaccompanied, the most glorious
chant melody – oh man. It’s fabulous.

 

Salvation history is recounted through the reading of God’s holy acts in the OT – from creation to the flood, to a new heart, a sea parted – it’s amazing. Then the celebrant – the priest leading the service – stands in the still-darkened room and sings:

Alleluia, Christ is Risen

and we reply

The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.


At that point, Lent is over and we begin the official par-tay.

 

Like you, I have several hymns that say EASTER to me – Jesus Christ is Risen Today, The Strife is O’er,
Low in the Grave He Lay – but since becoming a worshipper at an Episcopal church, this is the hymn that screams ALLEUIA to me – without even saying the word.  For the festal victory is now assured – Christ the victim is now Christ the priest – we are ransomed, healed, restored, and forgiven because Christ, the living Manna from above, has won the complete victory over sin and death.

Death’s sting?? GONE.

Grave’s victory?? GONE.

So even at the grave we can make our song –

ALLELUIA!

ALLELUIA!

ALLELUIA!

At The Lamb’s High Feast We Sing

At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
praise to our victorious King,
who hath washed us in the tide
flowing from his pierced side;
praise we him, whose love divine
gives his sacred Blood for wine,
gives his Body for the feast,
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.

Where the Paschal blood is poured,
death’s dark angel sheathes his sword;
Israel’s hosts triumphant go
through the wave that drowns the foe.
Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed,
Paschal victim, Paschal bread;
with sincerity and love
eat we manna from above.

Mighty victim from on high,
hell’s fierce powers beneath thee lie;
thou hast conquered in the fight,
thou hast brought us life and light:
now no more can death appall,
now no more the grave enthrall;
thou hast opened paradise, 
and in thee thy saints shall rise.

Easter triumph, Easter joy,
These alone do sin destroy;
from sin’s power do thou set free
souls newborn, O Lord, in thee.
Hymns of glory songs of praise,
Risen Lord, to thee we raise;
Holy Father, praise to thee,
with the Spirit, ever be.
 


Words: Latin, 1632;
trans. Robert Campbell, 1849Music: Salzburg, St. George’s Windsor

 

 

 

 

 

Meter: 77 77 D

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Good Friday

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

(click play on the player over on the right hand side.)

 

 


holy-week-cross

 

 

        1. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
        See Him dying on the tree!
        'Tis the Christ by man rejected;
        Yes, my soul, 'tis He! 'tis He!
        'Tis the long-expected Prophet,
        David's Son, yet David's Lord;
        By His Son God now has spoken:
        'Tis the true and faithful Word.

        2. Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
        Was there ever grief like His?
        Friends through fear His cause disowning,
        Foes insulting His distress;
        Many hands were raised to wound Him,
        None would interpose to save;
        But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
        Was the stroke that Justice gave.

        3. Ye who think of sin but lightly
        Nor suppose the evil great
        Here may view its nature rightly,
        Here its guilt may estimate.
        Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
        See who bears the awful load;
        'Tis the WORD, the LORD'S ANOINTED,
        Son of Man and Son of God.

        4. Here we have a firm foundation;
        Here the refuge of the lost;
        Christ's the Rock of our salvation,
        His the name of which we boast.
        Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
        Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
        None shall ever be confounded
        Who on Him their hope have built.

Text: Is. 53:3-5 Author: Thomas Kelly, 1804 Tune: "O mein Jesu, ich muss sterben" 1st Published in:_Geistliche Volkslieder_ Town: Paderborn, 1850

A Journey of Devotion – Maundy Thursday

Come To The Table

Michael Card

Come to the table and savor the sight

The wine and the bread that was broken

And all have been welcomed to come if they might

Accept as their own these two tokens

The bread is His body, the wine is the blood

And the One who provides them is true

He freely offers, we freely receive

To accept and believe Him is all we must do

 

Come to the table and taste of the glory

And savor the sorrow, He’s dying tomorrow

The hand that is breaking the bread

Soon will be broken

And here at the table sit those who have loved you

One is a traitor and one will deny

And He’s lived His life for them all

And for all be crucified

Come to the table He’s prepared for you

The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release

Come to the table and sit down beside Him

The Savior wants you to join in the feast

 

Come to the table and see in His eyes

The love that the Father has spoken

And know you are welcome, whatever your crime

Though every commandment you’ve broken

For He’s come to love you and not to condemn

And He offers you pardon and peace

If you’ll come to the table, you’ll feel in your heart

The greatest forgiveness, the greatest release

 

 

 

I’ve always quipped that my early years of following Jesus, through the discipleship of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, were marked by learning the discipline of quiet times with a Bible in one hand and a hymnal in the other. This is true, but incomplete; for a true devotional time for me would consist of a Bible in one hand, hymnal in the other, and a Michael Card CD playing in the background – in the early years it was most likely “The Life”, his profound project covering the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. If you don’t have it, get thee to itunes and do so. In the Seefeldt household, disc 1 is Advent/Christmas, and disc 2 is Holy Week. 

 

The song quoted above is one example of Card’s writing – that he marries such a simply moving text with his lyric tenor melodies is the rest of the magic. He has shaped my soul, and I’m grateful for his gift. 

 

 

Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin of John 13.34 – mandatum novum do vobis, “A new commandment I give you: love one another.” Tonight’s service is a biggie in most liturgical traditions. We finally make it to the Upper Room, where Christ not only washed the feet of His disciples, but also instituted the Lord’s Supper and gave this new commandment – this mandate – mandatum – of love. Some churches go all out and do a foot washing as part of the service. Others focus more solely on the Eucharistic element of the day. 

 

For me personally, the most moving part of Maundy Thursday is its relationship to Good Friday. For at the end of the service, the altar is stripped of all adornment, all candles, everything beautiful, and the sacrament is removed to the chapel for the night of repose – the watch night – the prayer vigil – when members of the congregation sit and keep watch until the beginning of the Good Friday service at 1.00.

 

 

 

Would no one stay awake with me? 

 

 

 

 

Tonight, if only to redeem the failure of our ancient brothers, we will. 

A Journey of Devotion – Arrival. Holy Week Begins.

Our Palm Sunday service yesterday was.. well, just like Palm Sunday services from the prayer book pretty much always are… living in the tension of the celebratory (Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! All glory laud and honor to Thee, Redeemer King!!) and the penitent (and the crowd cried ‘Crucify Him’… and he thirsted, and they gave him vinegar… – for at the Palm Sunday service we read the full Passion Narrative – the Gospel account of the crucifixion).

The service begins in joy.

And ends in silence.

Holy Week, I think, is nothing if not a study in contrasts… and an exercise in learning to live into the tension of what was, what is, what will be — and to try, if for a moment, to remove the advantage of hindsight, and of history.

 

My favorite Palm Sunday hymn is one I grew up with… (I know I’m a day late, here, but I hope it will still help get you started on the right foot this week.) We always sang it to the tune “Ellacombe“. 

Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang;
Through pillared court and temple the lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them close folded to His breast,
The children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.

From Olivet they followed mid an exultant crowd,
The victor palm branch waving, and chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of men and angels rode on in lowly state,
Nor scorned that little children should on His bidding wait.

“Hosanna in the highest!” that ancient song we sing,
For Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of heaven our King.
O may we ever praise Him with heart and life and voice,
And in His blissful presence eternally rejoice!

Details and citation here.

It’s a little… oh, cherubic? Childish? Overly sentimental? Yeah, I think so. But the celebratory text is such a perfect paradox with what’s about to happen… that works for me, somehow.. the thought of singing this while the kids are processing with palms.. well, that pretty much sums up the day for me. 

 

So, the service ends with no blessing, no closing hymn — we enter in celebration, we leave in quiet – and with a prayer that our finite minds can suspend belief for a week so that we can enter the story, see the end from the beginning, and know Christ and the power of sharing in His sufferings. 

 

It begins.

A Journey of Devotion – A text for where I’m ‘at’ today

 

When wounded sore the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner’s wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner’s woe.

When penitential grief has wept
Over some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of Blood,
Can wash away the blot.

‘Tis Jesus’ Blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief;
His heart is touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Lift up thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide,
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

Mrs. C. F. Alexander, only notation I can find right now.

 

By this time in Lent, I’m usually a mess. It might be less Lenten than seasonal – come ON spring, would you just get here?? – and this year it might coincide with just a major amount of upcoming transition – Scott has taken a new job in Baraboo, WI – more on that later – and a hugely busy March for me – three consecutive weekends away – but somehow I don’t want to miss the fact, too, that it’s still Lent.

 

There’s a weariness in weeks three and four that will only be assuaged by a Resurrection.

 

There’s an emptiness as we near holy week that will only be filled as we start the steps of the via dolorosa – the suffering way – and do what we can to know Christ and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.

 

There’s a fasting-fatigue that catches up with me by this time in the journey… probably the point where I most need to listen, and to surrender. And keep fasting.

 

There’s a selfishness in me that rears its head long about now when I’m ready to stop sacrificing all my ‘alle**ia’ songs that I had to skip in 4 weeks’ worth of gigs. [BTW, have you ever tried that?? Leading worship for non-lenten-types who aren’t the least bit concerned about a poorly-timed ‘alle**ia’? It was a good challenge – one I met head on, and one in which the Lord led me around to 3-4 new songs (to me) all of which were blissfully alle**ia free. 🙂 ]

 

Truth be told, though, all of these externals only reveal the internal, which is that I’m at the end of myself, and I’m selfish, and undone, and while I’m ready to celebrate a Resurrection, I also need one. 

 

I need a new begetting, a beginning and a birth,
I need a visitation from the Holy here on earth..
I need a death of ‘halfway-done’, of my complacencies,
I need a fuller, more-completed ideology….

 

I have no shelter from my sin but in His wounded side.

 

There, as in the cleft of the rock, I shall rest. 

 

Sunday, April 5th is the Sunday of the Triumphal Entry. Palm Sunday.

I will see you then, ready to walk.

 

Steph