I started writing this post two years ago, but I’ve now kept only the photo, which is almost identical to one I took yesterday on the Feast of Pentecost. Today as I write is the continuing of the feast, with Holy Spirit Day. Now after 50 days of “waiting” for the Holy Spirit after Pascha, we once again pray in this way at the beginning of every service:
O Heavenly King, the Comforter,
The Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere present and filleth all things,
Treasury of blessings, and Giver of Life,
Come and abide in us,
And cleanse us from every impurity,
And save our souls, O Good One.
Two baptisms were held yesterday, too, which were a glorious part of our celebrations. The church was full of trees and greenery. The sun was shining, the faces were shining… I am very glad.
The second Sunday after Pascha we remember the Myrrhbearers who came to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ. And my saint, Joanna, was among them. 🙂
And they said among themselves: “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” This was the subject of the Myrrh-bearing Women’s conversation as they climbed up to Golgotha, looking for nothing unexpected. The women’s weak hands were not strong enough to roll the stone away from the tomb’s entrance, for it was very great.
Those poor women! They did not remember that the labour to perform which they were hastening so zealously to the tomb had already been performed during the Lord’s earthly life. At Bethany, at supper in the house of Simon the Leper, a woman had poured precious spikenard over Christ’s head. The omniscient Lord said at the time about this woman: “In that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial” (Matthew 26:12). He had a clear foreknowledge that His body would, in death, receive no other anointing.
You may ask: then why did Providence allow these devout women to be so bitterly disappointed? To buy precious myrrh, to come fearfully through the dark and sleepless night to the tomb and not to perform that loving act for which they had sacrificed so much? But did Providence not reward their efforts in an incomparably richer way, in giving – in place of the dead body – the living Lord?
“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
This is one of the Paschal hymns our little groups sang over and over today, as we walked among the graves at several cemeteries, rejoicing with those who wait in hope.
It is called the Day of Rejoicing, or Radonitsa,
and is always the second Tuesday after Pascha.
Today the wind was blowing, so we could not keep our candles lit. The sun peeked out from behind clouds from time to time.
More wildflowers than I’ve ever seen were blooming in the non-endowed cemeteries. This must be because of the very wet winter and spring we have had.
The rattlesnake grass was blowing in the breeze and making a graceful and wavy dance.
I knew that Scarlet Pimpernel was a flower, but I didn’t know it was this flower
growing among the lupines. My godmother told me.
My husband is buried at one of the cemeteries we visited, and my goddaughter at another.
We sang and burned incense and sprinkled holy water over the graves of dozens of others
who are resting in the earth, awaiting the Resurrection of the Dead.
This year I remembered to bring the shells from our red Pascha eggs
to sprinkle on the graves, and flowers from my snowball bush, too.
We were all so happy to be there!
“We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of eternal life.
And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause,
the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.”
When I walked up to the open doors of the church this evening of Bright Thursday, the flower scents streamed out and welcomed me to Paschal Vespers. Inside, the altar doors are wide open all this week, and after the service the decorated bread called Artos was placed before them. It stays in the church all through Bright Week, representing our risen Lord, the Bread of Life. This Sunday we will cut it up and eat it together.
Pots of lilies and bouquets are all over the place, and many icons are draped
with flowers carefully and lovingly arranged.
I want to back up and show you some scenes from Pascha, starting with the midnight service and our procession around the property, after which we arrived back inside the church to sing “Christ is risen!” by means of many words and melodies. We did this for a few hours, ate our joyous agape meal, and got to bed about 4:30 in the morning.
I was battling a cough that kept me from many services last week, but I managed to come back for Bright Monday Liturgy. This service always has a lighter and sweeter tone than Pascha, perhaps from the daylight that warms our bodies and reveals the beauty of the church. And of course, we are rested a bit, and not so wired as we were Saturday night.
Tuesday I drove a couple of hours to “Silicon Valley,” to attend the funeral of a dear uncle. I spent that night with an old friend, and we walked in the afternoon along the Guadalupe River Trail, a refreshing green space in the middle of urban and suburban sprawl.
Wednesday I was heartened to spend some time with my husband’s cousins and pray at the grave of a man of prayer. He had included me and my family in his prayers for decades.
Now I am back home, and taking care of my garden again.
Flowers are bright here, too, of course!