Well, as I sit here at home in my pajamas at 10 a.m. on Monday morning, still in an incense-induced stupor after four days of chanting, kneeling, prostrating, processing, hoisting, carrying, lighting, extinguishing, rehearsing, proclaiming, preaching, communion-giving and “Happy Easter-ing” to people at the church doors, I’m struck by three small but perhaps significant developments. Make of these what you will.
1. The church was packed. That’s not unusual for Easter. But this year, it was more packed than usual. One of our priests even mentioned it to me on the altar: “I can’t remember,” he whispered during the responsorial psalm, “the last time we had this many people here. Francis?” Maybe. I was there to serve or assist at three Sunday Masses, plus the Easter Vigil. And it was all mobbed. (Even the Vigil, which requires stamina, time and effort, was full.) We estimated about 1,600 people at our 11:30 “high” Mass (with choir and trumpet and all the smells and bells)—this, in a church that seats a little less than 1,000. The 1:15 Mass was close to that, too. They were spilling out onto the sidewalk. We had nine communion stations to handle it, and it was almost not enough. The last time I can remember a throng like that was the year when Pope John Paul II died. Various people speculated this year about what might have brought these folks back to church. Maybe it is Pope Francis. Maybe it’s the state of the world right now and a sense in people “I need to pray. I need this.” It’s hard to say. But the hundreds of unfamiliar faces in the pews was striking—and, really, heartening.
2. Of those many unfamiliar faces, a lot of them—far more than I expected—chose to receive the Body of Christ on the tongue. On any given Sunday, at any particular Mass, I’d estimate that 10% of the people in my communion line receive that way. But at Easter, it was probably 30% or more. Some of that can be credited to just the extra communicants. But I wonder if something else is at work, too. I dunno. To me, this was enough to be noticeable and impressive. (Some of them, of course, may have been visitors from out of town. But I suspect many weren’t.) For whatever reason—piety, humility, reverence, an old habit—it’s safe to say there were people who don’t ordinarily attend Sunday Mass on a weekly basis who chose to receive the Body of Christ on their tongues.
3. Continuing a trend over several years, fewer and fewer people are getting dressed up for Easter. I saw a few “outfits” with splashes of color or a little sartorial panache. But those were few and far between. Going to church isn’t as much of an occasion as it used to be—and neither is dressing up for Easter, I guess.
Now I’m going to take a shower and face the day. Jesus is risen. Me? Not quite. Coffee is calling.
Happy Easter. Alleluia!