Joy shimmers within the holy night of mystery.


Such occurs during the chanting of the Exultet before the newly blessed Paschal candle at the Easter Vigil. The energy swelling each word loosens sacred stories from their moorings: the necessary and happy fault of Adam’s sin, the Israelites’ Passover and deliverance from Egypt’s bondage, their subsequent guidance by the pillar of fire in the desert, and the Great Hallel Psalms 113 – 118 and 136; then, melds these stories within the crucifixion and redemptive death of Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, rejoicing is more than fit as the Gregorian chant sustains these words, too fragile to hold what they communicate.

What also gives me pause is the Exultet’s composition. Textural analysis shows the mind of the fourth-century St. Ambrose, but the earliest extant manuscript of the hymn is found in the seventh-century Bobbio Missal Christian Liturgical Codex in France.

 And even more significant is the Exultet’s continuous use, despite modifications, among worshiping congregations in the Western world. Its vision still permeates, its joy gladdens, its hope grounded in the mystery of the Sacred-with-us.

Even this night, though streamlined this year, the deacon will again chant the Exultet in Christian churches, its mysticism uplifting the weary and anxious around the world.

Toward the end of the Exultet, we hear: O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human. Amen.