A Wrinkle in Eternal Time
March 28, 2016
by Megan Castellan
Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
And let your trumpets should Salvation
For the victory of our mighty King
Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
Bright with a glorious splendor,
For darkness has been vanquished by our Eternal King
Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
And let your holy courts, in radiant light,
Resound with the praises of your people.
-from the Exsultet
The Exsultet (that long prayer chanted during the Easter Vigil as the Paschal Candle is lit) is one of the older things in the prayer book. For generations, the faithful have gathered in the dark, and sung in praise of the flickering light, as love triumphs over death.
When I was a kid, hearing the Exsultet was the main draw of the Vigil. In my brain, it amounted to time travel; the cantor stood by the candle and recount the stories of God’s saving grace, while past and present mingled together. It felt very Wrinkle-in-Time.
My youthful dreams of being Mrs. Whatsit aside, there’s some good theology in the Exsultet. The opening bids the entire creation to rejoice in the knowledge of what God has done at the Resurrection. We call on the angel choirs to start singing in heaven, the entire assembled saints of God, and the earth itself to burst forth in radiant light. A line that we do not use in the Episcopal Church even name-checks the bees, who made the nice candle for our use.
Taken as a whole, the Exsultet reminds us that the resurrection is more than just a nice event that gets people into heaven. It is a creation-wide transformation that changes how the whole world works–not just us. As lovely as we are, the resurrection of Jesus is not just about us; it is also about renewing and healing all of nature. Human brokenness, after all, affects the world around us. We are the stone thrown into the pond that sends countless ripples outward. And so God’s great project of resurrection has to include those ripples too. All of creation, from the brightest star, to the tiniest quark, is bound up in the glory of Christ’s Resurrection.
Today, as you are out and about, find something in the natural world that speaks to you of resurrection. Share it on social media and tag it #50days and #resurrection
Mary W. Cox
I’ve never thought of this before, but you’ve made the Exsultet remind me of the “Great Dance” passage in C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra. “Love me, my brother, for I am infinitely necessary…for I am infinitely superfluous…” The Resurrection keeps on being MORE. Thanks.
God hitting th big button labeled “RESET”!
Thank you! Lovely thoughts on the Exsultet.
The resurrection fern in the tree in my backyard is green for Easter.