Essay: “This is the night”

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Essay: “This is the night”

Hosannas ring on Palm Sunday, and then comes the Passion.

We look closely this week at the sufferings, torture and death of Jesus. And, then, his resurrection.

On Holy Saturday, after the lighting of the pascal candle, this joyful news is told in a beautiful, solemn, mystical song called the Exsultet, or the Proclamation of Easter. It begins:

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,

exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,

let the trumpet of salvation/sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,

ablaze with light from her eternal King,

let all corners of the earth be glad,

knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

“O happy fault”

This song, usually sung alone by a cantor, goes back at least 1,500 years. It is filled with wonder and awe, repeating the phrase “This is the night,” including the lines:

This is the night

of which it is written:

The night shall be as bright as day,

dazzling is the night for me,

and full of gladness.

It is a song that confronts the pain of life, our own weakness and the might of God — and God’s impossible-to-fully-understand willingness to save us.

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!

 

“O truly blessed”

And near the end of this ecstatic hymn of praise and elation come the words:

O truly blessed night,

when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,

and divine to the human.

O truly blessed night!

 

Patrick T. Reardon

 

3.26.18

 

 

 

 

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