4 May 2005
Ever since the Pascha celebration I’ve wanted to write about it. Things slowed down enough this morning so I could.
First of all. Pascha (PAS-ka) means Easter, or more specifically, the Feast of the Resurrection. The Orthodox use the two interchangably. On to the service…
On Saturday night at about 11:00 we were seated in the pews, somewhat droopy eyed as we had recently woken up from a nap that was meant to tide us over for the late night ahead of us, but ended up making us rather sleepy. Looking around I could see we weren’t alone. Despite the sleepiness there was an air of anticipation and people were eager to get started.
Before I get into the service, let me explain something a little bit about Lent. Lent is during the 40 days preceding Easter. Most people in the church do three things during Lent. They fast from certain foods, they pray and they give charitably. It’s a solemn time. A time to slow down and remove distractions from your life. So I only mention this to give an idea of what we personally have been doing leading up to this service. Likewise most of the people in the room with us have been observing Lent.
At 11:30 the service began. There were some readings from scripture and some prayers. We lit candles and the priests and deacons made their way around the inside of the church and up to the choir loft. From up there, once we had finished a song the priest shouted out “Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen!” We responded with “Alithos Anesti! He is Truly Risen!” As if lightning had struck the building the mood changed. People were alert, kids were smiling, people were crying. This current shot through the crowd. Lent is over. Easter is here.
So we celebrated. Then we had our first liturgy of Easter. After receiving communion it was getting to be about 2:30 or so in the morning but people were still very energized. We headed into another part of the church for a lamb dinner. Walking in we could smell the meat cooking and let me tell you, it was heavenly! After some wine, beer, lamb and plenty of other food I was full. My heart, emotions, spirit and body had all been fed. My soul was in bliss.
We went home and got to bed at about 4:00.
Sunday we slept in, and the church had vespers service and a barbecue in the early afternoon. Everybody brought something, and they cooked two big lambs for that too. I brought my Pascha Common (a beer I had been brewing for this event). It was a big hit with everybody.
Something I really appreciate about the Orthodox church is that they like to seal just about everything they do with a meal. Every sunday we don’t eat lunch because we get to eat together right after church. Every Wednesday night during Lent we had a liturgy that was followed by a potluck.
So by the time we went home from the afternoon meal on Sunday we were again full. Pascha for us was a very rich experience. It’s not my place to judge other churches but it feels like until now we had been missing out on something very big. I’m glad we are here.