Christ is Risen! Glorious Pascha!
This post might contain some of the giddy grogginess that I currently feel, seeing as I just spent 36 hours in church this weekend. I never once thought I’d say that, but it’s true. We loved every minute of it- in fact, on the way home (at 6am!) Jesse said, “If my body were stronger I wish we could have Pascha every weekend!”
This Pascha definitely felt more glorious than the last. I can’t say it was better than our first Pascha, because our first Pascha will always be special. That first year at St. Barnabas, our eyes were like childrens’- suddenly we realized firsthand that this was going to be unlike any Easter we had ever experienced. In the past, I never remembered that Easter was coming until Palm Sunday. It was always a sort of “wakeup” call, like, “Oh yeah! I should really check my calendar more”. And Easter Sunday was always over and done before I knew it. But there was always the long break from school to make me grateful for the holiday.
This isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate what Easter is and what it celebrates. I was very aware of the fact that Christ died on the cross and that His resurrection meant we could spend eternity in heaven. I wouldn’t say, however, that I ever “experienced” Easter with anything other than my mind.
It’s hard to explain Pascha if you haven’t been to one. It really is, and I’m not just saying that. There is SO MUCH packed into such a short amount of time (haha, and we were only at around half of the services!) that it’s hard to summarize. All of Holy Week is dedicated to following Jesus to the cross, one step at a time. Every morning there is Divine Liturgy and every evening there is 2 hour Bridegroom Matins (Christ as the Bridegroom coming to claim his Bride the Church) . Normally, Matins occur in the Morning, but they are done in the evening to show that because Christ is about to be crucified, all of time is out of whack. They are also done at night in accordance with the parable of the Bridegroom who came to the 10 women suddenly, in the middle of the night. All of the gospel readings and choir music are chalk full of Old Testament Readings and how Jesus’ death was needed. In general, Monday was about the sterile fig tree, Tuesday, about the parable of the vigilant virgins who were ready for the Lord (Matt. 22:14). Wednesday, about the sinful woman who repents by wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. She is celebrated in opposition to Judas, who SHOULD have been faithful.
Thursday was when things really began to heat up. Both the Liturgy and the Vigil in the evening were dedicated to celebrating the Lord’s Supper and to mourn his death. At the Vigil on Thursday evening (which was 4+hours long!) we all held candles and knelt as we listened to the Passion Story being read in 3 of the 4 gospels.
Friday at 3pm there was a funeral bier set up in the middle of the church, decorated with flowers and funeral lamps. We held a funeral service, and then at 6:30 began the Vigil where we lit candles once again and followed the shroud with the figure of Christ on it around the church, singing. I’m sure we must have looked like quite the sight to Oaklawn traffic passing by!
It was here that I decided to sign Jesse and I up for an hour slot at the all-night Vigil. When I say, “all-night”, I mean all-night. This is one of my favorite traditions of the Orthodox church. We simply took sign-ups to have people reading the Psalms at the tomb of Jesus all night. This is to be in contrast with the disciples who fell asleep. Jesse and I had the 12am-1am slot. I thought that it was going to be a long hour, but it SERIOUSLY felt like 20 minutes. Jesse and I took turns (I was really worried about getting hoarse from all the singing). I started by just reading them, but Jesse encouraged me to try chanting and so I did 🙂 It was a wonderful hour, praying peacefully by the tomb of Christ.
And then Saturday morning, 8am. We, along with the Trants, Gaspards and Unruhs became godparents once again. This takes a post of its own, for this was an awesome ceremony, and the kids were downright hilarious. After that, we celebrated the Divine Vespers/Liturgy which last until about 1. From there, we went with the Unruhs to Chipotle for our last meal before the Pascha feast. Typically, if able, you’re not supposed to eat at all in between the 2 services. Most people are unable to fast for this long and still make it through all the services, so the priest said that if you were going to eat, make sure to do it right away.
After Chipotle, Jesse and I went to Central Market to get a few things for our Pascha Basket.
Jesse and I, having experienced the extreme fatigue one can experience during the final Divine Liturgy, took a 6 hour nap. Jesse joked that the nap was more sleep than he had had at night for the past few days, since he had a paper due Thursday and a huge Greek exam on Friday (yay for Catholic Universities kicking it into high gear the week after their Easter!).
And then, glorious Pascha. We started out, lights COMPLETELY out except for our small music stand lights in the choir. We sang slow, sad songs, until it was time for the procession. We all lit candles and processed behind the cross around the church three times, singing,
“Thy Resurrection O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing, and do thou enable us here on Earth, to glorify thee with pure hearts.”
As we came back around to the church on the third time, hundreds of people in tow, Archbishop Dmitri knocked on the door three times. Then we entered the church singing, “Christ is Risen from the grave, trampling down death by death! And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” as LOUD as we could, as though our very lives depended on it. It was thundering, just picture hundreds of people in a cathedral, singing/shouting this as loud as they possibly can. I couldn’t even hear our choir director who was 2 feet away from me!
And boy was the church glorious! All the lights were on, the funeral bier was gone, the cathedral chandelier was blazing- so gorgeous.
From there we proceeded to the Divine Liturgy, which had most of the music replaced with different versions of “Christ is Risen”, in a bunch of languages that I really had no idea how to pronounce. I ended up either humming or at least trying to mouth some of the words of the different languages. I think I actually sang the Spanish and the Russian ones- those were easy. The rest…ever tried to sing Hungarian?
When we had finished around 3am, we proceeded over to the church hall and the priests blessed all of our Easter baskets. We headed upstairds with the Unruhs and found a kiddie table over in the corner to claim as our own. The smell of Demetrios grilling in the corner was wonderful. But it wasn’t as wonderful as this:
Michael made Mac N Cheese squared, in imitation of the BEST macaroni and cheese ever at the Yardhouse, complete with real apple-smoked bacon and truffle oil! OMG, it was the best. We ate and ate and ate, until suddenly, I felt very naseous (which I suddenly remembered, happened last year too, as my stomach started screaming, “This isn’t rice and beans! What are you doing?) But it quickly passed and I was able to continue eating, thank the Lord :). There was also food downstairs including an icecream-sundae-bar (of which I didn’t partake of until we were leaving). It wasn’t nearly the full-0n production that St. Barnabas has, which is something I miss. St. Seraphim’s tradition rests more on the individuals bringing their own rotisserie chickens and burgers. There is still tons of sharing that occurs- Jesse had to finish off a bottle of “Salvation” whiskey- but it is not nearly the party that St. Barnabas has. Perhaps we can implement that here in Dallas! I’d be kind of scared, though, to see what would happen when the Russians started dancing…
Finally, at 5:30am, Jesse and I dragged ourselves to the car and drove home.
Thank you, glorious Pascha, for coming to us once again this year!
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