BETHEL – Hundreds gathered in the pre-dawn chill of Easter morning to celebrate the Risen Lord at a sunrise Mass at Blue Jay Orchards, hosted by St. Mary Parish in Bethel.
“I love to watch the sunrise come up during mass,” said Vicki Wish, who attended the service with her family. “It’s a great way to start the day.”
Wish and hundreds of others felt the same way as cars arrived in the early morning hour with headlights piercing the darkness. Lanterns lit the path to the outside altar as footsteps crunched gravel on the way to set up chairs in a field illuminated in moonlight.
“We have a very good crowd here this morning, despite the pandemic,” said St. Mary Pastor Father Corey Piccinino, as he welcomed the congregation, who respected social distancing protocols and wore masks during the outdoor service.
Many people came prepared for the early morning mass with chairs and blankets to keep warm. Easter bonnets were replaced with more practical knit hats and gloves. Some people wore knit hats with lights to help them navigate the darkness others used the light from their cell phone.
The occasional birds chirping were interrupted only by the joyous greetings of “Good Morning,” and “Happy Easter” as people passed each other on their way to sit down.
During the homily, Father Piccinino told a story of how Jesus paid for our sins with His life and related how Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Risen Lord.
“She couldn’t wait until the sun came up and neither could we,” he said to the gathered faithful, some of whom were huddled under blankets.
But the chilly temperature could never deter the hopeful.
“There’s nothing like seeing this beautiful sky, this beautiful sunrise,” said Karin Deshan, gesturing to the pink and lavender hues peeking over the horizon. “If you can’t be at the real tomb, this is an incredible experience.”
“We arrived in the darkness here and we are leaving in the light with Jesus in our hearts,” said Deshan, who is a member of the choir and a parishioner of St. Mary’s for more than three decades.
Father Piccinino encouraged by attendance to the early morning mass, said to the departing crowd, “I hope to see you all in church next week.”