Liturgy in Eastertide

“This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow!” So we shall sing and so we shall practice, following the old dictum that “praying shapes believing.” Having cast off our forty days of Lenten penitential austerity, we celebrate the Great Fifty Days of Easter with full pomp and splendor: the vestments return to the “best festal set,” the Paschal Candle burns throughout the season as do the candles on the high altar, the baptismal font takes center stage, the Alleluia returns to a place of prominence, and, as the redeemed in Christ, we omit the General Confession. To add an increased note of celebration, more of the service will be sung than usual, from the opening acclamation to the dismissal; we will use a setting by our own Maggie Brickson as part of the Eucharistic canon. • The theme of Easter is new life in Christ. God has turned us full circle: from the ash heap of our lives on Ash Wednesday we have come into the fullness of life and joy. God does, indeed, have the final word. • The color for the season is white, for new birth and resurrection. • Symbols abound for Easter, but two are primary: the Paschal Candle, the new light of Christ, which burns near the baptismal font throughout this season (and later at all baptisms and funerals, equally Easter events); and the blessed water of baptism, through which we are adopted as children by God and made full members of Christ’s Body, the Church.

[Fun fact: Did you know that the earliest Prayer Book services were intended to be sung almost in their entirety? In 1550 John Merbecke published his Booke of Common Praier Noted, designed to provide for musical uniformity in the use of the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. Merbecke set the liturgy to semi-rhythmical melodies partly adapted from Gregorian chant. (An example may be found in your hymnals at S113.) Merbecke is honoured, together with William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on November 21.]

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