Many people cannot figure out for the life of them why on earth we became Orthodox Christians. They hear about our 2 hr. services every Sunday morning, and they think, “hmm, that’s a little long!” but then when they find out we also STAND for the ENTIRE 2 hours (yes, even during the sermon) and that we have all of our kids with us the entire time (we don’t believe children should be sent to a nursery or children’s church), well, then people just look at me like I’m darn near crazy.
And if that’s not shocking and counter cultural enough, I then tell them about Holy Week leading up to Pascha, where we are attending church 2-4 hrs. every single day, making for a grand total of around 20 hours of church before we’ve even GOTTEN to the Easter service. And that, my friends, is a service that begins at midnight and ends around 4am, after which we stay up even later for drinking, eating, dancing, and general partying.
And yes, our kids are with us the entire time.
Granted, most parents bring sleeping bags for the kids. Sometimes we wake them up at 3am when it’s finally time for communion, sometimes we let them sleep. Sometimes we’re right there with them, taking a little snooze and then getting up to sing some more.
From the second service on Friday, all the way until Pascha early Sunday morning, someone stands watch over Jesus’ “tomb” reading the Psalms. Last night, my husband woke up at 1:30 in the morning, drove to church, and read out loud by himself from 2-3am. We do this as an opposite response to the disciples who fell asleep, because they could not stay awake even when their Savior who had done so much for them needed their friendship the most.
In other words, I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy. Orthodox Christians do learn a type of strength and endurance from many days and years of practice, but we are still human, after all. Our feet get tired. Our bellies get hungry after 40+ days of not eating any meat or dairy. Our arms get tired from holding our kids for hours. Our patience wears thin when the kids cry or throw a fit and everyone hears.
We don’t do all of this because it’s easy.
We do it because we are giving our own human frailty and brokenness as our only and most essential response to what Christ gave to us with his Life, Death and Resurrection.
We participate in his Life by denying our passions in order to highlight our frailty and the ways in which we need His grace and strength. We participate in his Death by mourning at his funeral on Good Friday. We participate in his Resurrection by allowing our souls to be nourished by communion and then celebrating with our church family.
Yes, the kids will have a rough time when we have to wake them up at 11pm and drive to church tonight. But there’s no way that I would ever deprive them of the joy we get to share on Pascha. It’s an indescribable joy that I only wish we could share with everyone.
To all of my fellow Orthodox Christians out there (yes, I’m looking at you, Tom Hanks, Troy Palamalo and the Hansen Brothers!), Christos Anesti!