The Archdiocesan ecumenical Easter Vespers this year was hosted by St. Andrew’s, Bearsden on 26 April. Archbishop Conti presided and the homily was preached by Rev Colin Caskie, Moderator of the Presbytery of Dumbarton. The church was beautifully decorated for the service, with the yellow of the flowers giving a warm Easter feeling.
Before the service, the St. Andrew’s Parish choral group, supplemented by eight of the St Mungo Singers, sang Wesley’s “Lead me, Lord” and Dr. Noel Donnelly played some Celtic harp music. Then the choral group led the congregation in singing “Alleluia, sing to Jesus” for the Entry Procession. Archbishop Conti welcomed Rev. Caskie and his wife, and representatives of other Christian communities, as well as Canon Gerard Tartaglia, Dean of the north West Deanery and Fr. Paul Milarvie of the Archdiocesan Ecumenical Commission.
The psalms for the evening were Ps.117 (setting by Michael Joncas) and Psalm 22 (Gelineau setting with a response by Fintan O’Carroll). The Canticle was the Canticle from Exodus (The Canticle of Moses, set by Gerry Fitzpatrick).
In his homily, Rev. Caskie referred to the sense of disappointment which is rife in many parts of the Church today when faced with increasing materialism, chemical warfare etc. In the face of these increasing problems, our spirits grow fainter and there is a feeling of pessimism. But this was the same feeling that the disciples on the road to Emmaus were experiencing. Spiritual life in Israel of that time was at a low ebb but some had never given up hope of a spiritual – not political- redemption, and yet this hope had now seemed lost.
For the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus brought them to recognise that their hopes had been fulfilled but in a different way. Christ had to suffer and so enter into his glory. In his Passion, he represented man at the end of his tether but also man staking everything on God. The challenge to us too is to see that our troubles are not outside of us but within. We need to become new people. Sharing in faith and fellowship, we can come to know something of that Emmaus experience.
As the congregation reflected on Rev. Caskie’s words, Dr. Donnelly played a quiet meditation on harp. Then all stood to join in the singing of the Magnificat, a song of positive hope, to the traditional tune used for Amazing Grace and arranged for choir and descant by Gerry Fitzpatrick. Intercessions followed for the Church communities, the country and all those in need.
Before the final part of the Vespers, Fr. Billy Donnelly expressed his thanks to Archbishop Conti for being present and took the opportunity to present him with a book of paintings.
The service ended with another joyful anthem by the choral group “Regina Coeli” and the recessional hymn invited everyone to remember again the reason for our hope and faith “Christ the Lord is risen today”. Refreshments were provided in the church hall, and Mozart’s Ave Verum gave the departure of the congregation a warmth and assurance as they made their way to the gathering for a buffet and an opportunity to chat and share indeed in fellowship.