Ahhhhh! The Great Easter Vigil is the arguably the greatest night in the liturgical year. It's filled with symbolism, music, conversion, tradition and story-telling. I look forward to this night not only because it marks the passing of Lent, but reminds me to rejoice in the gift of my life, family and God with a renewed sense of His purpose and hopefully STRENGTH to lead my family into a healthy respect of the church and faith.
I have a sense that my son Nicholas viewed the evening as something much different, much more torturous and painful.
I knew it was going to be a long night when I announced to my older children that we would be going to the 2 1/2 hour Vigil earlier in the day on Saturday. Rebecca had no problem with the announcement, but Nicholas (who I had to call home from a birthday party) moaned and groaned.
Nick: MOMMMM! We have to go to church tonight?
Me: Yes, Nick
Nick: Do I have to dress up?
Me: (calmly) Yes, Nick
Nick: (cow-like moan) I can't find my clothes.
Me: They are hanging in the laundry room, Nick. Oh, and don't wear your tennis shoes with your dress slacks, they are too dirty. Your dress shoes are in your closet.
Nick slumps over and walks slowly away to get dressed. I can hear faint moans coming from his closet. Nick re-appears in my bathroom dressed and wearing his nice shoes. He starts again:
Me: (patient and steady) Yes Nick
Nick: These shoes make me look like a clown.
Me: They look great.
Nick: (whining) But they are uncomfortable. Can I please wear my tennis shoes.
Me: ( even steadier) No. Go...get...in....the...car.
When we arrived at the church, we immediately joined the masses outside for the candle-light procession into the church. I was worried that Nick might accidentally set someone's hair on fire, not being the sort of child who is very conscious of others around him, but luckily all were safe. We filed into our pew with other parishioners but were "smooshed" so we moved Nick and Rebecca into the pew in front of us. Not FIVE minutes into the Mass, Nick leaned backwards and asked in a pained face: Mom, how much longer? At this point, I was getting a bit impatient with his complaints and so I glared at him with steely eyes and said in a cold whisper, " You KNOW how long Nick. Now turn around before your father takes you OUT." ( You do not want to be taken OUT of church by dad, because there is a 90% chance it will end with a good spanking .) So Nick turned around, shoulders hung and defeated and settled into Mass.
Now normally, I would mentally prepare myself for the Mass, but could not get a good focus on what was going on before me since Nicholas sat figiting in front of me throughout the entire Mass. If one had a time lapse camera, you would have seen Nick with his head tilted far back on the back railing of the pew in some kind of sleep mode (I firmly pushed his head up in a clear signal that this was NOT appropriate church posture), bent over examining his shoes, picking at wax on the floor, bending his candle in all kinds of odd shapes and making shadow finger plays on the pew cushion. After about 2 hours into the mass, Nick said in another pained whisper, " Mom, I'm having a hard time breathing. Can I get some water and air?" I looked at his dad for his opinion and since he had bouts of health problems earlier that week, we agreed that he could go to the water fountain and get some air.
After Mass, we visited in the Narthex with friends while Nicholas and his friends quietly sat in a corner enjoying the cake, lemonade and veggies. Nick seemed to be feeling better (miraculous) and did not complain once since being released from his pew prison. After awhile, a friend came up to me and jokingly said, "Your son was getting ready to run some races in the Narthex before Mass was out." I replied, " Nick?" She said, " Oh, yeah. He and two of his buddies were posed in starting position over by the bathroom doors and were getting ready to race down the hall. So I went over and broke up the event and informed them that Mass was not over and that they should be sitting quietly." I said to my friend, " Is that right? Well, thanks for letting me in on that interesting little piece of information. Oh, and by the way, you always have my full permission to set him straight anytime you see him out of line. Thank you for correcting that bad behavior."
For a boy who was having a hard time breathing earlier in Mass, I found it quite interesting that he was healthy enough to want to run a race before church was over. When I asked him about it, he pleaded innocent. " We didn't run mom! I promise. We were just posed to run. We were not really going to do it! " I said to my son, " Nick, there is NO excuse for even pretending to run down the Narthex during Mass. It better not happen EVER again. Do you understand?"
Nick: Yes mom.
It's an Easter of new beginnings and renewed strength. I'm tired already.