This past Sunday evening I had my first opportunity to attend Great Paschal Vespers. Not only did I attend, I also directed the music (occupational hazard).
And here's something I noticed: we said or sang the word Alleluia 122 times in the course of the service. (In one of the processional psalms for the service alone, we sang it 40 times.)
I've written previously on this blog about not living up to the liturgical promise of Easter (especially during Easter Week), so I was eager to put my money where my mouth was and engage in a liturgical form specifically for the Easter season.
Great Paschal Vespers is an interesting service. It's based on a "stational" liturgies from Rome that were conducted as a congregation traveled from place to place. And within the confines of the four walls of a parish church, some of the psalms for this service (with their added Alleluia antiphons) do give the sense of an Easter People on the go.
And here's something I'm thinking about this Eastertide. This may be overly obvious to many of my readers, but I doubt that our congregations are really fully aware of it: Alleluia is an Easter word.
If Great Paschal Vespers doesn't drive that point home, I don't know what does.
Yes, we sing it at Christmas and at other times of the year, but we surely sing it more in Eastertide. It should feel good to sing and say this word in the Easter season, especially after we've given it up for 40 days.
We should notice its inclusion in the Dismissal during Eastertide (and not during the rest of the year, thank you very much.)
Here's where I think church musicians fail their congregations in Easter: our parishioners have a really good idea of what Christmas music is (and they probably have a few favorite Christmas CDs that they listen to every year) but Easter is our holiest season and I don't think churchgoers have the same proficiency with a seasonal musical vocabulary as they do with Christmas.
To put it bluntly, we haven't popularized the Alleluia.
So how could we begin to rectify this? Is Great Paschal Vespers a viable option for most places? Is there an as-yet unpopularized "Easter Lessons and Carols"?
I don't know the answer, but I hope you'll help me on this, alleluia, alleluia.
Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia.
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