Last year was the first time I attended the Easter Vigil at St. Joachim Church here in Hayward CA. I’d just migrated here from the Philippines, and was still getting used to Stateside life. Plus I had been coming to the daily morning masses intermittently, finding solace and spiritual reconnection once again in baby steps, when suddenly Holy Week was upon me. The Easter Vigil which I attended with Agnes, crept upon me unawares.
It was just so vastly different from the other vigils I’d attended in the past back in Manila. Maybe because, for the first time in a long time, I was on the other side. I was in the congregation as a fully cognizant participant instead of in the choir as a music minister. Maybe for the first time in ages, I was finally meaning the words I prayed. Maybe the difference simply lay in the liturgy used.
Whatever it was, the difference was palpable and awesome. From the blessing of the fire to the procession through the darkened church with the blessed flame lighting the way, to the beautiful singing and the 7 readings each done in a different corner, I was awestruck and captivated. The liturgy of the celebration was unusual and new and beautiful, and through it– through the readings from Sacred Scriptures, through the ceremonies and symbolisms, through the experience and the Spirit — I felt the prodding of the Lord to return to His service. I volunteered soon after, and began playing music for the daily masses. And re-committed myself to growing in the Lord.
Spanish choir, Choir Director Ed Magistrado studies a piece,
the pipe organ which is my battle station,
Fr. Jimmy Aguilar preaches,
posing with Tita Luz Datayan and Fr. Hieu
This year was different maybe because I was on the other side of the fence as part of the music ministry and in the middle of a sea of activity that never seemed to wane.
Yes, many things were the same: the liturgy was just as beautiful as I remembered, the experience of prayerful reflection on the Word of God was as moving as ever.
What changed? This time around, I was less a visitor to a church in a land I was not born in, but more a family member celebrating the joyful truth of Christ’s resurrection in a church that has become my home.