Over and over and over we read through scripture the exhortation for us to "Sing to the Lord" or to tell God: "I will sing of your salvation." The very common word Alleluia, which means "Praise God" is a frequent expression of the same thing.
Why so much emphasis on praising God? I think the feast we are about to celebrate, Easter, is the answer to this. After all, St. Paul says, in writing to the Romans: God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all; how can he fail to lavish every other gift upon us?(8:32) What an amazing statement!
To celebrate God's infinite generosity and boundless love takes all of the Church's creativity, energy, and reverence. Over the centuries she has produced the 3-day event we call the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter with its Sat. night vigil). This is the pinnacle of the Church's liturgical year. With music, reading and prayer, she walks us through the story of how often God has reached out to humanity again and again, finally with the ultimate gift of Jesus the Son.
From the beginning, humans have used music and poetry to elevate praise to a higher level of solemnity and beauty. We can see how the Church has done this in celebrating our salvation during the Triduum. The jewel in this liturgical crown of the arts is given to us on Holy Saturday in the Exsultet. Again and again the poetry of this ancient song tries to express our awe of what God has done and continues to do for us through Jesus Christ. Here are a few of my favorite passages :
… to ransom a slave, you gave away your Son!
… O happy fault that earned so great … a Redeemer!
… Jesus Christ…for our sake paid Adam's debt…and wiped clean… our ancient sinfulness
… O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth…
The entire Exsultet is a triumphal song of the Church as it praises God for the amazing gift of salvation. For anyone who would like to deepen his/her insight into the significance of the Easter mystery, the text of this musical prayer could be a rich place to continue the journey most of us began with our baptism.
May the prayers, ritual, music and poetry of the Triduum and the 50 days of Easter (The Easter season ends only with Pentecost on June 8) bring deeper faith and understanding of what God has done. May all the alleluias of this season and beyond bring realization of how God continues to give us love and forgiveness daily, and every time they are sung, may they lift our spirit in gratitude and awe.
Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB