Earlier in the week I quoted the beautiful Easter hymn of the Exsultet sung by the Deacon in the darkened church tonight. Here are a few more lines. I have taken the liberty of restoring some of the lost verses removed in the liturgical reforms of the 1960s. R. C. Zaehner, the great (and somewhat eccentric!) Oxford philosopher of religion, loved these passages that compare Christ to the ‘great mother bee’ and in his wonderful ‘Our Savage God’ quotes it as a part of his chapter on the ‘divinity of bees’ (which I don't think should be taken too seriously!). With our recent ecological concern for the loss of bees I find it touching that the hymn writers went to such lengths to give the humble bee such a starring role in the central liturgy of the Church’s calendar. So here they are again... the great mother bee greeting the morning star – Happy Easter!
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
Washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
It casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled with God!
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, an evening sacrifice of praise - a gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar, whose glowing fire ignites for God’s honour.
A fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by the sharing of its light. Fed by the melting wax which Mother Bee drew out to build so precious a torch.
Huius ígitur sanctificátio noctis fugat scélera, culpas lavat:
et reddit innocéntiam lapsis
et mæstis lætítiam.
Fugat ódia, concórdiam parat
et curvat impéria.
O vere beáta nox,
in qua terrénis cæléstia, humánis divína iungúntur!
In huius ígitur noctis grátia, súscipe, sancte Pater, laudis huius sacrifícium vespertínum, quod tibi in hac cérei oblatióne solémni,
per ministrórum manus de opéribus apum, sacrosáncta reddit Ecclésia.
Sed iam colúmnæ huius præcónia nóvimus, quam in honórem Dei rútilans ignis accéndit.
Qui, lícet sit divísus in partes, mutuáti tamen lúminis detrimenta non novit.
Alitur enim liquántibus ceris, quas in substántiam pretiósæ huius lámpadis
apis mater edúxit.
May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all humanity,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Flammas eius lúcifer matutínus invéniat:
ille, inquam, Lúcifer, qui nescit occásum.
Christus Fílius tuus,
qui, regréssus ab ínferis,
humáno géneri serénus illúxit,
et vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculórum.
May the graces of the Risen Christ reach you today and through the rest of the year.