Last night, I set my alarm for 4:30 so I could get up for the 5:30 Easter Vigil at a local Anglican church. When I awoke in the middle of the night, I thought my alarm had lost its mind, because that screechy ringing sound was not the setting I put it on. Oh, wait. That was my landline.
I was informed that the hoped-for yet unexpected had happened — they had established a WiFi hotspot at my sister’s church so that my wife and I could participate in the baptism of our nephew in a faraway land called Saskatoon.* We are happy new godparents (this is godson number 2), and were disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to go oversea to the event itself. But, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we were able to witness the event!
In grand traditional fashion, making St Leo the Great well-chuffed, my sister and her husband chose to baptise the bairn on Easter Even at the Easter Vigil. Leo was quite adamant about people only baptising on Easter and Pentecost, and he devoted quite a long letter to it. Easter Baptisms are, of course, the ancient western tradition; and in Egeria’s day (late 300s) they were baptising at Easter in Jerusalem as well. In baptism we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection through the water.
So my sis chose well.
When I logged into Skype, all was shrouded in darkness. Then a fire was lit, reminding us of Christ, the Light of the World. They blessed and lit this year’s Paschal Candle. The deacon sang, ‘The light of Christ,’ three times, and the people replied (in good Anglican fashion), ‘Thanks be to God.’ The Paschal Candle processed past the computer. Whither, I know not.
Now that things were lit by candlelight, we could see a few things. My mom passed by and typed some messages. We turned out the lights and settled under the blankets to await our role in the service. The computer faced backwards, since the font is at the back of the church.
The Cantor at their church sings deep and true. I enjoyed it. Also, the content was deep and true!
After the singing of the beautiful Easter Proclamation (Exultet) came the Liturgy of the Word. My brother-in-law read the first lesson, Genesis 1:1-2:2. At some point, my sister e-mailed us the leaflet so we could follow along. This was greatly helpful. Someone else read the second lesson, Exodus 14:24-15:1. Then Isaiah 4:2-6, followed by Deuteronomy 31:22-30. Each of the four lessons was followed by a prayer and then perhaps a sung paraphrase. The prayers and responses helped highlight the Gospel truth of the Scriptural passages.
Prayer-Book Anglicans love the Gospel and the Scriptures. We pull out all the stops for Easter. (This includes on our organs.)
Then a hymn, and then the blessing of the water for baptism. We could see things now — my sister, her husband, the wee bairn, the priest, and the other godfather had made their way to the font at the back of the church.
At this point, my wife and I unmuted Skype, for here was our chance.
What transpired next was The Ministration of Holy Baptism to Children, as in the Canadian BCP of 1962. At the appropriate moments, though an ocean and miles of boreal forest and prairie separated us, we made our vows, said our ‘I do’s and our ‘I will’s. We renounced ‘the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory fo the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh’; we affirmed the Apostles’ Creed; we agreed to pray for our nephew ‘and take care that he may learn and do all’ the things of the Christian faith.
I like baptisms. This may have been my first BCP baptism — I like it a lot. I especially like the duties — being a godparent isn’t just about being an extra-special aunt or uncle, or a fun friend of the parents. It is a solemn duty to be performed to help this young person grow up as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ in a hostile world.
Not to be taken on lightly. ‘I will, the Lord being my helper.’
They now turned the computer around so we could follow the rest of the service.
From the baptism, we moved on to the Litany, from the Litany to the BCP Order for Holy Communion. The Gospel of the Risen Crucified God is here in the Canadian Prayer Book. The Easter Preface:
But chiefly are we bound to praise thee for the glorious Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord: for he is the very Paschal Lamb, which was offered for us, and hath taken away the sin of the world; who by his death hath destroyed death, and by his rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.
The Easter Collects:
Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: We humbly beseech thee, that as by thy special grace thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the resurrection from the dead of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we who celebrate this Paschal feast may die daily unto sin, and live with him evermore in the glory of his endless life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And, of course, the usual Gospel truths present in the liturgy every single time you pray it.
Anyone who feels that Anglicans undervalue Scripture and Gospel must only know Anglicans who don’t apply their minds, hearts, and lives to their Prayer Books. God’s revelation to us in the Bible and His salvation of us through the life, death, and resurrection of the Incarnate Word (accepted by faith!) are the two great themes of the Prayer Book.
Anyway, hymns were also sung (‘Come, ye faithful, raise the strain‘ [by St John of Damascus!], ‘Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness‘, ‘Christ the Lord is Risen Today‘). As people went up for Communion, my mom brought the newly-baptised back to the computer and we waved at him, and he smiled. At one point, my wife disappeared. He was much distraught at this.
After the service, we chatted a bit with people, the computer having been taken downstairs.
Then we went to bed.
Best Easter vigil ever.
*I feel like Canadian place names belong in fantasy novels: Saskatoon, Toronto, Tofino, Iqaluit, Rocky Mountain House (!!), Fort This, Fort That, Prince Albert, Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump.