I can't help but feel a sense of anticipation as we draw closer to the Paschal Triduum. One of the high points of the year, a moment that has helped shape my own Catholic faith, arrives each year at the Easter Vigil. The solemn chanting of the Exsultet shakes me to the core every single year. It is amazing to me how a text that is heard only once a year has had the power to grip my soul so fiercely, especially when these words are chanted:
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave
you gave away your Son.
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead.
On those occasions when I have had the privelege of proclaiming the Exsultet, I have made it a point to stress the words "wonderful" and "boundless." I must admit that I have always had a crack in my voice when chanting the words "To ransom a slave you gave away your Son."
Here is the new translation of this section:
This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners.
At the Easter Vigil to be celebrated in a few weeks, I know that I will have a sense of loss as the Exsultet is being chanted. I know there are those of you who have called me "melodramatic" about this whole issue of grieving the loss of these texts. Yet, I have the sense that these words are approaching a point of being like the final words of a dying friend. And I have to admit that it will take some time to get to know the new friend that is the new translation. Surely this new translation will be a casual acquaintance at first. There will be things about this new acquaintance that will attract me right away, for instance the line "O love, O charity beyond all telling;" just beautiful. But there will perhaps always be that twinge of grief when I recall the beauty of my old friend. But I guess that is what life is all about sometimes. A dear friend once said, "Life is but a series of hello's and goodbye's."
Right now I am feeling the pain of a significant "goodbye."
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.