Once upon a time, back in the day, back when I was in high school, our parish music coordinator always dragooned me, my brother Jacob, and one of the guys I grew up with to play our instruments for the Easter Vigil – Jacob on french horn, and the rest of us on trombone. I think there was usually a trumpet player too, but I can’t remember who. We were never particularly good (I personally never bothered to practice, and I don’t think the others did either) but no one seemed to care. The Easter Vigil is the longest church service ever, a big blowout of a thing with Bible readings tracing salvation history from the Creation of the World on up to the Resurrection. And that’s just the prologue. The Main Event (besides the Eucharist, which is always the Main Main Event) is the reception of new Christians into full communion with the Catholic Church. So, you know, depending on how thorough your local parish decides to be in tracing salvation history, and how many people you have joining the Church, this could take a while. I have never been much known for my patience (this is part of why I knit), so sitting up in the choir loft, my trombone across my knee, waiting the hour and a half or two hours until it was time for me to play again, I got a little, you know, bored.
That was when I started placing bets with my brother and the other trombone player about how long the Vigil was going to go. For a while it was just between me and Jacob, and then, like so many other things in my family, it expanded to include almost everyone. Along the way, certain ground rules were established. For example, Mass was over at the last note of the last song sung by the entire congregation. Bets must be placed before the Vigil starts (although some years they’re still being placed while we’re gathered outside the church waiting for the Easter flame to be kindled). Some years there were prizes, and some years it was only for the honor and glory of winning. Most of the participants are family, though we’ve allowed family members’ SOs to participate, and also 14 just because.
This year we decided that, if you wanted to place a bet, you had to stake something as a prize to go to the winner. This year the stakes were (in order of bets placed):
- AnniPotts: $5 Starbucks card
- Mom: $5
- AP: a batch of his (in)famous Rum Cream
- Fleur: an “Op Art style” drawing
- 007: $5
- Indy: the winners choice of handmade earrings or a batch of brownies
- Cuthbert: a pack of gum and a Powerball ticket
- 14: Poverty of Spirit by Johannes Baptist Metz
- me: handknit socks, with no guaranteed date of delivery
- Sae: daisy pen
- Rosie: a firebird decal & a box of cigars
- Johnnycakes: a short story written by him starring the winner
- Johnnycakes’ girlfriend (who really should have a nickname by now): a handmade rosary
In the end, AnniPotts took home the loot, with a time of 11:30 – almost exactly three hours. Which is not bad for an Easter Vigil!