FOR Catholics, Easter is a time of hope and devotion through the Paschal Liturgies.
And for communities of the Neocatechumenal Way, accustomed to large Easter vigil gatherings, the limitations of social distancing, proved a challenging prospect.
The Neocatechumenal Way has about 70 communities in 13 dioceses across Australia.
So instead of meeting as communities, Neocatechumenal families were invited to follow the Easter Vigil liturgy in their homes.
“This historic reality (of COVID-19 virus) was like the night of the Passover in Egypt … like the people in their own homes, waiting for the Passing of the Lord,” Vanda, a Sydney mother, said.
Kerry, celebrating Easter with her family said: “We started with the Lucernarium (lighting candles), and we had a fire to light our candles”.
“From there we moved inside where we began with the Exultet (Easter Proclamation),” she said.
“Then we began the Liturgy of the Word. We had asked seven of the children to prepare a reading each, and the 3 older girls proclaimed them.
“We had a song after each reading.
“All had a large candle to be lit, from which each lit their own candle – in many cases that from their own baptism.”
The natural crescendo in the Liturgy of the Word leads up to the Paschal Alleluia and the proclamation of the Gospel.
“Six of our ten children joined us in a beautiful and rich night of the word, where the kids fully participated,” Wollongong couple Arpad and Naomi said.
Parents helped their children through the readings, with different family members introducing each reading.
There were also moments to share with one another what the Lord was saying to them.
The Litany of the Saints was sung, before lighting their candles and renewing their baptismal promises – recalling previous Easters when each child was baptised by immersion.
To remember the Easter vigil, with its readings and baptisms is to be full of gratitude to the Lord who still has the power to lead us from Egypt to the Promised Land.
The limitations of 2020 caused by Covid-19 did not fundamentally alter the power of this night.
“We will remember this Easter fondly. Christ is truly risen for us! Alleluia!” Naomi said.
Those of the Neocatechumenal communities who were alone or in small households also celebrated as they could: many used Zoom to join a presbyter celebrating the Vigil.
Technology comes to our aid in difficult times enabling us to see and hear one another and even to sing together, in order to participate in a living liturgy which gives life.
In its own way the situation in 2020 has been a gift to the Christian family and enabled us to do something new – where the devil perhaps thought he had won a significant victory because the church buildings were empty, he had to acknowledge that multiple and powerful liturgies were being celebrated in domestic churches, the homes of families across Australia.
The good news was announced: Christ is risen. Alleluia.