Life, Faith: I went to Easter Vigil at the Co-Cathedral of Galveston-Houston last night to see my friend Donna become a Catholic.
I had only been in the Co-Cathedral once before, when Donna briefly showed me the nave. It is quite impressive, though lacking in the stained-glass windows I'm used to seeing in English cathedrals. This cathedral's stained-glass windows are mostly up near the top of the building, and nearer to the floor, they have statues of saints placed in niches along the walls. They do have an awesome stained-glass window of Jesus near the front of the cathedral, where the choir and the organ sit, but the congregation can't really see it. All the congregation gets to see is the small rose window behind the altar. this, however, was pretty neat last night, because it resembled the full moon to me. Since I'm near-sighted, you might see something different.
I have been to masses where they used candles, but I don't know for certain if I've ever been to a Vigil Mass before. It's long. There are about eight readings, lots of music, and then the baptisms, confirmations, and Communion. This mass lasted over three hours, and it started at 8:30pm. As I told the friend I sat next to, "There's a reason why I didn't become Baptist." I think some of their Sunday services last this long--every week.
The Vigil had a strong feeling of Beltane, and I wonder if this is how the early Christian leaders tried to incorporate their new religion into the old--though Beltane is mainly a Gaelic festival.
In Beltane, you relight your home hearths with embers from the bale-fire. At the Easter Vigil, we lighted individual candles from the Paschal Candle. At the Gloria part of the mass, where we are celebrating Christ's arising from the dead, the cathedral was slowly lit, first by candles and then by the regular lighting, after a lengthy period of darkness. It was a staggeringly powerful linkage between the two faiths.
Yet again, I am baffled as to why Christianity tries to exclude the validity of other religions when it is so clearly tied deeply to them. For me, the service was even more powerful and beautiful because of that linkage.