(www.deaconden.org) From the Blessing of the Easter Fire to the Final Blessing and Dismissal, the Easter Vigil is filled with solemn and praiseworthy rituals that should cause those who participate to gasp with joy! This is particularly appropriate since the celebration not only welcomes our new brothers and sisters in Christ but, most importantly, it brings us together to rejoice in the joy of the Risen Lord. Of particular significance, and peculiar to the Deacon’s role, is the Easter Proclamation or the Exsultet.
After the Deacon walks the Paschal Candle down the center of the congregation proclaiming “the Light of Christ”, he incenses the Book and the Candle to prepare for a glorious proclamation that reflects the reality and significance of the Celebration—Jesus Christ is Risen!
In preparation for this special proclamation, it is important for the Deacon to review and reflect on the content of the proclamation he is about to sing in the midst of the assembly. Indeed, the voice of the Deacon is joining “the hosts of heaven” and the “Angel Ministers of God” in announcing why this day is so significant—our “Mighty King has triumphed!”
But the rich language used in the Exsultet tells an even deeper story that is a cause for the Deacon, the “unworthy among the Levites”, to beg for God’s mercy and the assistance of “his dearest friends” to join him in prayer. This prayer is a declaration of God’s mercy in wiping out the history of world’s sinfulness “by the Blood” of Jesus… the Blood “poured out” to “anoint the doorpost of believers” and “banish the darkness of sin”. If that wasn’t enough, the Deacon proclaims, “This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death”, destroying completely “Adam’s debt to the Eternal Father”, setting “Christians apart from worldly vices”.
The most significant part of the announcement, “To ransom a slave you gave away your Son!” should be cause for deep reflection on the significance of God’s love for us. Had it not been for this ransom, “our birth would have been no gain”. Finally, the Exsultet culminates in the Deacon announcing that the “things of heaven are wed to those on earth”, more specifically, the “divine with the human.” How beautiful that this drama is played out at every Mass with the Deacon’s prayer at the mingling of water into wine!
I wonder sometimes if the faithful in the pews really understand the significance of this diaconal proclamation. As Deacons, it is certainly one that deserves the best of what we have when we sing out in joy the words of this wonderful and angelic announcement. My fear is that many in the pews are often distracted by other things … perhaps even by the voice of the one singing.
My prayer is that no Deacon lets this part of the Easter Vigil be less than wonderfully proclaimed. Certainly it is the Deacon’s privilege to sing. That said, if the Deacon can’t carry a tune or if he doesn’t have time to pray and practice this wonderful revelation, he shouldn’t sing it. Let the choir or another Deacon or Priest take your place in singing this message of joy. It’s too important not to do well. But, even if the Deacon isn’t able to sing at the Easter Vigil, the Proclamation is a worthy prayer of hope and joy that deserves our meditation as Icon of Jesus Christ.
“May the Morning Star which never sets”, Christ the Son of God, “shed his peaceful light” on you.