The Church’s liturgical year proffers rich treasures in its cycles and practices. With Easter our Alleluias once again ring out. In the Latin Church we experience a monumental shift of tone in our rites. We change from sober violet (and black) vestments to our festive white and gold. Abundant flowers again grace our altars. The penance of Lent pays dividends in the joy of Easter.
Speaking of changes, during most of the year, where it is the practice, the principal Sunday Mass can begin with the “sprinkling rite” with Holy Water. This is a penitential moment of preparation to enter into the sacred mysteries. The priest intones the antiphon, taken from Ps 50/51, “Asperges me hyssopo et mundabor… Sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be purified”, and then he either goes up and down the nave, sprinkling the congregation as he goes, or he stands at the edge of the sanctuary.
During Eastertide the antiphon changes to “Vidi aquam… I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple, Alleluia…” from Ezekiel 47, which hearkens to our own baptism made possible in the blood and water flowing from Our Saviour’s pierced side. Vidi Aquam is sung from the Easter Vigil until Pentecost, when the Lenten/Paschal cycle concludes.
At Easter another shift occurs in how we honour the great Mother of God, Mary, Most Holy. We sing antiphons in Mary’s honour, especially after the office of Compline and, in many places, after Holy Mass. During most of the “ordinary”, or “ordered”, time of the year, when we use green vestments, our Marian antiphon is the well-known Salve, Regina… Hail, Holy Queen. This is sung from Trinity Sunday until the First Sunday of Advent.
From Advent through Candlemas (February 2) we sing Alma Redemptoris Mater… Loving Mother of the Redeemer. This changes to Ave Regina Caelorum… Hail, Queen of Heaven, until Good Friday. The Easter Vigil brings in Regina Caeli, O Queen of Heaven, rejoice!”, which continues until Pentecost. Moreover, during the Easter season the Regina Caeli substitutes our daily threefold (6am, noon, 6pm) recitation of the Angelus.
It is good for us to punctuate our day with these beautiful prayers, which remind us of who we are and which console us in our labours in the midst of this world’s vicissitudes. Our lovely, short, daily prayers strengthen us, show honour to God, and bring us graces.
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