Saturday, April 3, 2010

Exsultet - The Easter Proclamation

The Exultet (also known as the Exsultet or sometimes the Easter Proclamation) is the traditional Western Rite hymn of praise intoned by the deacon during the Easter Vigil. In the absence of a deacon, it may be intoned by the priest, or by the cantor. It is intoned after the procession with the Paschal Candle before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word. It is used in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

In the missal the title of the hymn is "Praeconium", as appears from the formula used at the blessing of the deacon: "ut digne et competenter annunties suum Paschale praeconium". Outside Rome, the use of the paschal candle appears to have been a very ancient tradition in Italy, Gaul, Spain, and perhaps, from the reference by St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, XV, xxii), in Africa. The Liber Pontificalis attributes its introduction in the local Roman Church to Pope Zosimus. The formula used for the "Praeconium" was not always the "Exultet", though it is perhaps true to say that this formula has survived, where other contemporary formulae have disappeared.

The order is, briefly:

* An invitation to those present to join with the deacon in the invocation of the blessing of God, that the praises of the candle may be worthily celebrated. This invitation may be likened to an amplified "Let us pray ..."
* "Dominus vobiscum" ("Lord be with you ..."etc. This section serves as the introduction to the body of the "Praeconium", cast in the Eucharistic form to emphasize its solemnity.
* The "Praeconium , proper, which is of the nature of a Preface, or, as it is called in the Missale Gallicanum Vetus, a contestatio. First, a parallel is drawn between the Passover of the Old and the New Covenants, the candle being here a type of the Pillar of Fire. And here the language of the liturgy rises into heights to which it is hard to find a parallel in Christian literature." Through the outlines of ancient dogmas as through a portal we are drawn now into the "warmth of the deepest mysticism, to the region where, in the light of paradise, even the sin of Adam may be regarded as truly necessary and a happy fault". Secondly, the candle itself is offered as a burnt-sacrifice, a type of Christ, marked by grains of incense as with the five glorious wounds of His Passion. And, lastly, the Praeconium ends with a general intercession for those present, for the clergy, for the pope, and for the Christian rulers. For these last the text as it stands cannot now be used.

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