The Best Pastoral Easter Liturgy (That Might Get People To Return Next Sunday)

After a three-hour Easter Vigil, and two stuffed Sunday morning Masses, I was thinking about the ideal Easter Sunday Mass. I’ll mention a few things we did or didn’t do and please feel free to chime in with your parish’s practice, or what you would like to see.

The Lectionary is just about right. Brief and meaningful readings. I think giving a choice of Colossians and First Corinthians is wrong. It’s one extra little question from lectors that I’d rather not field during Holy Week … or at M-minus eight minutes on Sunday morning. Even the ones who “prepared both.” One reading should be chosen, and the other moved to another Easter Day.

The Sequence is lovely. Text and traditional music both. In an intentional community, sequences make sense on Easter morning. Most ideally, the text could be adapted to fit HYMN TO JOY and sung at Entrance. Otherwise, it’s a good idea but in the wrong cultural place. I can’t imagine doing it in the typical crammed suburban church.

The question-and-answer renewal of baptismal promises and Sprinkling Rite is really good. The forced connection between Sprinkling and some kind of Penitential Act in the Roman Missal is wack, to use a theological term. Water, baptism, creed, and professed faith makes sense, and I’m more inclined to think the Sprinkling Rite is misplaced in the roman Missal except for Easter Sunday. The Gloria is festive enough for Easter Sunday, as is the Sprinkling Rite after the homily. On this day a penitential rite is not needed, again, outside of intentional communities.

I have a strong preference for Eucharistic Prayer I on big feasts. Despite the horrid translation, I would still encourage it on Easter Sunday morning.

The Big Three need careful attention. Welcome, music, and preaching. Number one, at the doors of the church, plus the parking lot. Number two is a tradition for good music directors. I don’t worry much about that. If a parish’s music ministry is good the other 51 Sundays, it’s got to be adequate on Easter.

A priest doesn’t need a good homily for the previous three days of the Triduum. Pope Francis preached less than two minutes this year on Holy Thursday evening. That’s about right. One good idea, then let go. The ideal Easter Sunday homily would be about five minutes, and would involve about four Sunday’s worth of prep time–about the amount a preacher might spend on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil combined.

I hope everybody in a parish would share the same goal on Easter morning. For the previous three days, it’s all about celebrating the best and richest liturgy possible. That’s all “preaching to the choir,” as it were. Easter Sunday is about getting people back in seven days for a second try.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to The Best Pastoral Easter Liturgy (That Might Get People To Return Next Sunday)

  1. Devin says:

    “Easter Sunday is about getting people back in seven days for a second try.”

    I doubt the Easter, Christmas, wedding or funeral liturgy can get the occasional mass goer to return for the following Sunday. Most non-Catholics or nominal Catholics in my experience come (return) to Mass due to a personal encounter and friendship, an invitation to serve along w/ Catholics in the community (e.g. soup kitchen, hospice care, fundraising, house building) or a presentation is held in a church or other public (secular) space to address a specific topic (Theology on Tap). I think that the liturgy should inspire those in the pew to be open to opportunities for evangelization, I just don’t think it can convince people to return who occasionally visit for family or cultural reasons. I suspect for these people, the choice of scriptural or liturgical texts has little or no impact. But perhaps your experience is different.

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