by Malcolm Zara
Growing up, my mother raised me to be a “good Catholic.” I learned my prayers, went to a Catholic school, and I went was dragged to church every Sunday and the other Holy Days of Obligation. If there was such thing as “Catholic Extra Credit,” I was convinced I earned it. Whenever there was a special Mass held, she would bring us to those too. We would do feast days, novenas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s, Holy Week, and everything in between. (It’s remarkable though that I had never been an altar server.)
Back then, I was super thankful that Mass was only an hour long. There was only so much of going through the motions that I could take. Sit. Stand. Kneel. Respond. Get in line. Say Amen. However, there was one Mass a year that really tried my patience. It was the Easter Vigil. One that I attended went on for almost 3 hours. I was on the verge of becoming an atheist.
Something changed. As I “re-converted” to Catholicism, I began to fall in love with the way we worship. I started to perceive the motions I used to go through as a response to God’s love for us. The readings became the Living Word. The Eucharist became healing and nourishment. Mass finally meant something, and the Easter Vigil had much, much more to offer than fake extra credit points.
I grew to realize that the Easter Vigil Mass was comprised of some of the most profound and spiritually moving hours of the year. When your mind wanders, you miss out on some of the beautiful poetry that happens. Take the first few minutes of that Mass for example. Imagine the darkness we start the night in as being in the tomb that Jesus’ body was laid in. As light from our candles fill the room, Jesus slowly rolls the stone-seal away. The light that enters is the hope that Jesus’ return brings to the entire world.
Then, we have the readings. These words from Scripture are meant to captivate us with stories from our history. They are stories of creation, war, trials, and rescue that span different eras and generations. They remind us of the long and winding journey that we all take and that culminates in the Resurrection.
It is moments like these that deepen both my understanding of our faith and my relationship with God. I no longer go to Mass because someone told me too but because I want to. Mass is a real-life encounter with the risen Jesus. My favorite one is now the Easter Vigil and I hope it can transform your life like it does for me.