Quasimodo, Low, Dominica in Albis, Divine Mercy, Octave Day of Easter … all names which are, or have been used, for the Sunday after Easter Day.
In the old prayer books a curious instruction comes at the beginning of Lauds (Morning Prayer) on the Sunday after Easter Day ‘The hymns come again into use today.’ What is that about?
Well, at the beginning of the Great Three Days, on Maundy Thursday, the hymns stopped being used at Lauds and Vespers. Singing hymns wasn’t felt to be appropriate in these solemn days. Then along comes Easter, and yet still no hymns. Why? I like to explain it in this way – but I fully admit I am suggesting a fanciful and personal point of view!
Faced with the glory and mystery of the resurrection the church hymns fall silent. In Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings when Gandalf, who was believed to have died, returns his friends ‘Between wonder, joy and fear … found no words to say.’
Church worship can be so wordy, and even muddled. In among the words ‘wonder, joy and fear’ can be lost. Understandably, Pope Francis has encouraged the use of more periods of silence at Mass. There will be times when human words fail. No more must this be so than when we stand in the wonder of the glorious days of Easter. Then, as the theologian Gerald O’Collins remarks, ‘We can do no more than pay silent homage to the awesome nature of this resurrection from the dead, the beginning of God’s new creation.’
Then comes a time of words of joy and praise. The ‘wonder, joy and fear,’ ‘the silent homage’ turns to praise as the hymns return on Low Sunday. ‘Hymns come again into use.’ On this Sunday the tradition of the Church encourages church members to move on from silent wonder to sing out in praise of the glorious resurrection. Alleluia!