Liturgy of the Light
Posted by Keith and Lyn Scott, 6 days ago | 0 comments | Bookmark:
Passiontide and Easter, with it’s proclamation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus lies at the very heart of our faith. In Zambia it is more meaningful and important than Christmas. None of our Christmas images, liturgy or language really strike home when the days are at their longest. The Passion and Easter do make sense, however, and many Zambians observe the days of Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Day with deep dedication and commitment.
There are two congregations in Kwacha Parish. For Holy Week, I was on duty at St. Mary and John, the larger of the two congregations. It is a very lively, youthful township parish just bursting with energy, and services are filled with singing and dancing.
There is a “Praise Group” with electronic musical instruments and a lively line in Reggae and Rhumba rhythms. There is also a more formal choir which sings in the Southern African A Capella style. Neither can stand still and sing for more than a few seconds, the dance is an integral part of the song and both belong in worship.
When the singing and dancing start the congregation joins in with enthusiasm, even the children dance with style and rhythm. I have two left feet and about as much sense of rhythm as a coconut, but even I sometimes join in, to everyone’s great amusement.
It came to Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil service started with the lighting of the Pascal Fire just as the sun was setting. Worship in Zambia is also ‘high church’ so it was a full-on ‘high mass’ complete with bells and incense.
Singing and dancing and bells, smells and candles is a heady mix. We entered a darkening Church with the Paschal Candle and a trail of smoke from the thurible and began what was a truly lively service with a congregation of 70 or 80 people which simply began to rock to the strains of the praise team. It was a truly lively, joyful service.
I had slightly misunderstood what was going to happen. The people had all brought along candles and were, of course waiting to light them from the Pascal Candle. I somehow missed this and we did not do that particular part of the liturgy at the right time. The song, dance, and complexities of fire and thurible had distracted me. After the dismissal, however, the congregation called out to me “The candles”. I caught on that there were indeed congregational candles.
The lights (and there are only about three) were put out, I picked up the Pascal Candle, went with it into the nave and the congregation excitedly lit their candles from it. Light spread through the darkened Church, making it brighter and better lit than when the electric lights had been turned on. Health and safety is not a big thing in Zambia and ‘Risk Assessment’ is not a term anyone understands.
The congregation sang and danced with their candles held high. Nobody was set on fire and the darkness was dispelled by shear joy, enthusiastic dance, and bobbing candles. As the singing and dancing continued I got the crucifer, servers, and lay readers formed up and we began to process out. The congregation formed up behind. With candles bobbing to the rhythm of singing and dancing and the inevitable trail of smoke, we processed down the aisle.
Zambian townships have nothing by the way of street lights and the lights of the houses, if any, are hidden behind curtains, scruffy hedges or simple bark-board fences. We spilled out through the West door, a river light, song and dance flowing into the darkened township.
Is that not what the Church is supposed to do – spill out into a rapidly darkening world with the joy and unconquerable light of the risen Christ?