Sometimes, the Faith of Children is what we need most.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner
When you think of a Great Tradition Mass (Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican) you might think quiet, stoic, silent and contemplative. And you would be correct. You are sitting there observing a holy mystery as the Body and Blood of Christ is served through bread and cup. It is a thing of wonder and awe, both contemplating the mystery but also watching the Priest, listening to the liturgy, praying along with the liturgy.
But sometimes….somedays….that is not what happens. Sometimes the Children dance.
Let me set the scene for you.
It is a moderately chilly Easter Morning. We have just finished the three days of the Triduum, Munday Thursday, Good Friday and The Great Easter Vigil. Now we have gathered together in a tent, as one church body. The Priests are dressed in white, the altar is adorned in white and a picture of the empty tomb stands behind the Paschal Candle. On this particular morning, so that the body could celebrate together there is no child care. Instead, set up in the back is a table and chairs, puzzles, crayons, toy animals and more with blankets spread out on the ground. During the service the kids are free to go back there and play quietly, even encouraged. They will return to their parents during the Eucharist anyways since, as full members of the body, receiving the full grace of Christ through Baptism they may partake in the Eucharist.
We pray through the first part of the liturgy, the Priest preaches his sermon and a new believer is baptized as we all are encouraged to remember our own baptismal vows. Then comes the Eucharist. The Priest prayed the liturgy, we prayed the Prayer of Humble Access and were invited to the table. The newly baptized member went first, followed by the worship team who then returned to their instruments in the back and sang Good Shepherd of My Soul by Keith and Kristyn Getty. Everyone begins coming forward row by row to receive the bread and the cup. It is a typical Eucharist. It began as a typical, quiet, Anglican Eucharist service, the type we had come to expect in the last year, quiet and in order.
But it would not stay that way for long.
The next song is more contemporary, a song by the band NEEDTOBREATHE called “Testify.” As a critic I would have told you the song isn’t really that great, it’s a cookie cutter worship song designed to keep the band relevant on Christian Radio, one of those songs that feels really out of place and even shallow next to some of the other songs on the album. As a fan of the band though, I will tell you it is one of my favorite songs of theirs. It is also one of those songs that, when done well live, can completely change the mood of the arena or in this case, Eucharist, it is played in. For those of you who are fans of Building 429 and have seen them live. It is the same effect “Where I Belong” has, a song that the bands touring manager told me at Winter Jam one of the years I covered it in Wichita was a: “Terrible song, but when they played it live, the mood and atmosphere of the room was just transformed.” Another example of God using the “ordinary” or “not very attractive” to share His joy with His people.
The song started and the room was changed, by the Children in the back at the tables are rugs. One started dancing, then two, then three, then before long all the little kids were up in the back dancing to the song, laughing and singing in their own language. My wife made eye contact with one of the Priests wives, our dear friends who had helped us move to Spokane, whose kids ours played with and both began to cry. It was a beautiful and glorious scene as the congregation continued, row by row, to go forward to receive the Eucharist. One of those things that only the Holy Spirit could orchestrate. On this, the happiest day of the Christian Year, the year we celebrate Jesus final victory over the grave, it was the children who were having a full on celebration, and it was contagious. “I had to make sure I didn’t spill the wine cause I was starting to dance.” One of the priests said after the service. Once we had gone forward to receive as a family I actually stayed back and danced with my daughter (who may have started all this in the first place) until the song finished.
It was a beautiful time, a time when all was in order, but also not, a time when the presence of the Spirit was palpable and real. It was a reminder that the Christian Life is a celebration in which we joyously do the work of the Kingdom and stop when we can to feast and dance together. It was a reminder that Christ has risen, He has risen indeed!
Oh and, we still have 37 more days of Eastertide, the celebration has just begun.