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Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Great Vigil of Easter: The Long Night of Stories

April 11, 2009 – The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

This night is the night for stories. This is the night we hear the stories of our faith – from creation to resurrection. This is the night we hear stories that take us from the dark, formless void straight through to the empty tomb.

We begin the way ancient people have always begun: with a new fire which we bless as the first gift God gave to us in creation: the gift of Light.

We light the Paschal Candle from the new fire and we tell these stories to each other by candlelight, the way people have been telling stories to each other throughout the centuries and from before the beginning of time.

Author Clarissa Pinkola Estes grew up in a family of storytellers. Long into the night, her parents, uncles and aunts and cousins and, eventually, even she would tell stories.

In her book, “The Faithful Gardner,” Clarissa tells a story about how stories were created which begins this way,

“How did stories come into being? Ah,” she says, “stories came into the world because God was lonely.”

“God was lonely? Oh yes, for you see, the void at the beginning of time was very dark. The void was dark because it was so tightly packed with stories that not even one story stood out from the others.”

“Stories were therefore without form, and the face of God moved over the deep, searching and searching – for a story. And God’s loneliness was very great.”

“Finally, a great idea rose up, and God whispered, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light so great that God was able to reach into the void and separate the dark stories from the stories of light. As a result clear morning stories came to life, and fine evening tales as well. And God saw that it was very good.”
Clarissa details the creation of all of God’s creatures, so that there could be stories about the trees and the seeds and the plants, stories about the stars and the sun and the moon, and stories about the birds, sea monsters and every living creature that moves.

And then she writes,

“God created human beings from the dust of the ground, and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, and human beings became living souls: male and female God created them.

“And as these were created, suddenly, all the stories that go along with being completely human also sprang to life, millions and millions of stories. And God blessed all of these, and placed them in a garden called Eden.”

“Now God strode through the heavens wreathed in smiles, for at last, you see, God was lonely no more. It was not stores that had been missing from creation, but rather, and more especially, the soulful humans who could tell them.”

I think, more than anything, God wants us to tell our stories – the stories of our lives, the stories of what we think, how we live, and how we love each other and all of God’s creation.

I think we honor God, on this most holy night, when we re-live and re-tell the story of creation, the story of Jesus and His Love for us.

I think God is most pleased when we tell the story of God’s love for us in Jesus, a love that id so strong, death cannot consume it. A love that is so wondrous, even the grave cannot contain it.

This is the night when God knows us best and loves us most and celebrates with us, because tonight is the night when we tell the stories of how God created us and gave us life eternal in Jesus so that we might live forever to tell the story of God’s love for us.

The charge for us, this night, is to learn to tell this story in our own way, with our own words, from our own hearts, so that our children and our children’s children may keep company with the God of our salvation now, and throughout eternity.

Clarissa says that the old family blessing that was a tradition in her family was this:

“Whomsoever is still awake at the end of the night of stories will surely become the wisest person in the world.”

So may it be for you.

So may it be for us all.



Katie Schwartz said...


Happy Good Friday and Happy Easter.

I love what Clarissa wrote about how stories were created, it makes so much sense and it's quite beautiful.

Now, Q4U, Pasachal Candle? I know you know this, Passover in Hebrew is Pesach. What's the connection?

Jane Priest said...

Thanks. I needed that. My churches don't have a Vigil (and for me right now that is a blessing). I entertained the idea of going to one nearby but in the end, drove to Charlottesville, VA to be with someone at her time of death. Came home to your post. Thank you.

And I love that book, read it years ago. Should go dig it up and read it again. Read Women who Run with the Wolves in high school. Don't remember it. I am very comfortable with Jungian thought.

The Lord is Risen!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Happy Pesach, Katiegirl. The Paschal Candle represents the Light of Christ, who is our Pesach - our sacrificial lamb. We took everything good from our Rabbi's tradition and made it our own. Stealing, I know, but in the best kinda way. I am so very respectful of and grateful for our Jewish heritage.

Next year, Jerusalem!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Joie, I think you did the Great Vigil in the greatest possible way - sitting with someone who is 'passing over' into life eternal. What a beautiful statement of faith.

Our Vigil went very, very well. The largest number of people ever = and this is a real affront to suburban sensibilities that want liturgy straight-up-no-chaser and exactly an hour, if you please.

I think the chocolate covered strawberries and champagne reception hooks them. A little sweet reward for their sacrifice.

Six sermons in seven days, however, is a real killer. Easter Day tomorrow. The Lord is Risen, indeed! (At least, after all this work, He'd better be.)

Jane Priest said...

Yeah, one of my churches doesn't want Sunday morning to go past 45 minutes. I have been sorely criticized for 53 minutes. I don't understand but I am trying to listen.

Fran said...

Happy Easter - Night of Joy to you, blessings of Easter, He is risen!

I am curious to ask you about the Exultet!

I loved reading every word of this dear Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Joie - After 7 years here - with some people standing at the back of the glass narthex, pointing to their watch, cutting out the Epistle, reducing the verses on the hymns . . .I discovered that the attendance of the people who complained the most did not improve. So, now, when people complain about the time, I just smile and ask, "And how much time would you like God to give you this week?" And then, I walk away.

I don't know how effective it is for them, but it has worked wonders for my own soul.

Do your best, Joie, for God and the people of God, and try to learn not worry about the time. That last bit is harder than trying to memorize the Exultet, but it's well worth the effort.

Happy Easter!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Frannila - we can talk about the Exultet. Call. We'll talk

Happy Easter.