From the vault:
It can’t be easy living with a deacon, especially now.
Every year, for a few weeks before Easter, the deacon pulls out sheet music and starts practicing that Everest of liturgical song, the Exsultet: a nine-minute a capella chant sung in near-darkness at the start of the Easter Vigil.
Around our home, the Exsultet is the Muzak of our lives. It’s everywhere. I warble snatches of it constantly. My wife, saint that she is, has become politely oblivious. How she does it, I will never know.
6 AM and the clock radio goes off. My wife nudges me awake. “Be glad,” I burble, “let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King.”
Later, I find myself in our apartment building’s elevator with a few bleary-eyed neighbors heading to work. “Dearest friends,” I sing, “standing with me in the awesome glory of this holy light, invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty… “
I’m sure it’s no accident that a few get off before we even reach the lobby.
Crowded in the subway, I am surrounded by a large contingent of non-Catholics – many Jews, in fact, marking their own holy feast. How can I resist? “These then are the feasts of Passover,” I exuberantly sing to them, “in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb, whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.” They think I’m crazy. It’s the New York subway. I fit right in.
At work, the copy editor passes me an edited article which reads better than I expected. “Let this holy building shake with joy!” I exclaim. He nods, rolls his eyes, and passes the copy on to the graphic artist. He’s used to this.
Back home, my wife asks me how I liked her dinner. “Dazzling is the night for me,” I assure her, “and full of gladness.” She notes that it wasn’t anything special, just something she popped into the microwave – and a little overcooked, at that. “Oh happy fault,” I beam. I notice her fingering the dinner knife. I shut up.
Easter is coming. My wife (and my neighbors) are counting the days. Exult, let them exult!
Also worth noting:
For the truly courageous, my rendering of this chant from last Easter is below.
And for something beautiful and surprising, part of the Exsultet as I heard it in Jordan last year—in Arabic.