Four years ago at the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral, it was my part to chant the Easter Proclamation (also known as the Exsultet). So, as directed by the rubrics, after incensing the Paschal candle, I then went to the ambo to incense the book. As I approached the book, (which was actually a three-ring binder with photocopies of the music and text), I thought to myself: “We could do better than that.” Then I thought, “I could do better than that.” I had to put that thought aside because it was time to start singing, but after the Vigil I started thinking in earnest about designing and illustrating a beautiful book from which to chant the Easter Proclamation.
Initially, I had in mind a ritual book, written and illustrated by hand, to use at the Cathedral. Eventually I sought out and found a publisher, The Liturgical Press, which will have it available this coming November. I’ve only seen the proofs but they’ve done a great job creating a beautiful ritual book for the Easter Vigil. It contains the entire text of the new English translation of the Exsultet as well as twenty-eight color illustrations. All but five are based on traditional icons which either illustrate various themes of the prayer itself (such as the Passover, the Crossing of the Red Sea and Christ’s Descent into Hell) or the typology of the Resurrection (such as the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace and Jonah.)
One of the features of the new English translation of the Exsultet is that, at long last, those parts of the prayer that praise the bees in general and the mother bee in particular (for creating the wax from which the Paschal candle is made) are now restored. So a special illustration of the mother bee and bees appears in the borders of the book.
Just before I sent the illustrations off to the publisher, I painted floral borders in the bottom outside margins. Four borders to be exact, repeated throughout the pages of the book – blueberries, salmonberries, forget-me-nots and devil’s club. So in a book for the universal Church there is a small touch of Southeast Alaska. My hope is that this book will enhance the joy of our celebration of the night of nights, the Easter Vigil.
The Illuminated Easter Proclamation will be available from The Liturgical Press in November 2011.