Category Archives: Pascha

Candles and flowers for Pascha.

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life!

The last several days have been kind of a blur. We Orthodox were “in Jerusalem,” our rector kept reminding us, following Christ step by step from the day He was acclaimed and lauded with hosannas, on through His last meal with those men closest to him, His prayer in Gethsemane, betrayal by Judas, a farce of a trial… and on to the cross on which He offered Himself for our sakes. Every day of Holy Week we had at least two holy and liturgically rich services, sometimes three.

This year I was able to participate in these beautiful and moving services more than ever before, and to feel the continuity of them, at the same time seeing afresh how each is unique. This was the first time I thought, after Vespers on Holy Friday, “Oh, I must try to come tonight again, for Matins of Holy Saturday, because there will be the reading from Ezekiel about the dry bones, which in the whole year I can only hear tonight.” And stronger still was the need to be with family whose Beloved was suffering; how could I think of resting at that point?

But we did all occasionally have to go home for sleep or to eat a bite and many people of course must work or attend school. So between my car and my front door I would take a picture, and when I went out in back between rain showers to get some more firewood I took some more. I am in love with the new fig leaves and miniature knobs of fruits.

Saturday we gathered at 11:30, under clear skies; at midnight we streamed slowly out of the church with singing, and came back to the porch to hear, “He is risen! Why seek ye the living among the dead? Christ is a stranger to corruption!” I took some pictures that are blurry, but I guess that’s appropriate. I was so sleepy, my mind was a bit foggy, too, in a happy daze.

Children slept in a jumble of blankets on the floor, or played with the melting beeswax of their candles. Adults like me are often seen playing with their candles, too! Before the service started I sat on a bench along the wall and kept putting my unlit candle to my nose to drink the heady honey scent.

I had an extra friend from church stay here for a few days to reduce her driving time. She brought me pale pink tulips, so lovely. And Trader Joe’s had stock in other perfectly Paschal-Spring colors, from which I made my first stock bouquet ever. In the garden are dozens of calla lilies that I will bring in tomorrow.

We returned for Paschal Vespers on Sunday afternoon (So strange to sleep, and then eat breakfast on a Sunday morning!) and then a BBQ and picnic. And this morning the radiant Bright Monday service, processing with decorated Artos bread. The weather has been perfect for the last two or three days, but more rain is coming. What a blessing all that rain is; and I’m glad I don’t live where it snows at this time. But even there, it would be springtime in our hearts.

By Thy Cross, Thou didst destroy the curse of the tree.
By Thy burial Thou didst slay the dominion of death.
By Thy uprising, Thou didst enlighten the race of man.
O Benefactor, Christ our God, glory to Thee!

Easter Dawn

XV EASTER DAWN

He blesses every love which weeps and grieves
And now he blesses hers who stood and wept
And would not be consoled, or leave her love’s
Last touching place, but watched as low light crept
Up from the east. A sound behind her stirs
A scatter of bright birdsong through the air.
She turns, but cannot focus through her tears,
Or recognise the Gardener standing there.
She hardly hears his gentle question ‘Why,
Why are you weeping?’, or sees the play of light
That brightens as she chokes out her reply
‘They took my love away, my day is night’
And then she hears her name, she hears Love say
The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.

by Malcolm Guite, who reads his sonnet here.

Mary and Gardener yellow orange

Heralds and singers all day long.

On the church calendar, we are still in Pentecost, that 50-day period between Easter/Pascha and Pentecost. We even take note of Mid-Pentecost, which was last week.

Of course, it’s never inappropriate to remind one another that “Christ is risen!” but during these weeks we make a special point of it and try to remember, instead of “Hello!” to greet one another with those words of joy and hope. For truly His resurrection from the dead, His overcoming of death, shows the power of God to deliver us from our own patches of darkness, no matter how impossibly deep and cold the current “grave” we find ourselves in.

Last night a robin came around to chirp the falling of dusk to me, “my” robin who always seems to be sent as an emissary from the Father – or more precisely, a herald: Gretchen, remember, God is here with you! I forgot to tell you that in my hotel in Atlanta earlier this month, the night when I was staying alone, a robin chirped right outside my ground-floor window just before darkness and a rainstorm.

This morning I woke to birdsong floating in from the garden and the trees. As I made my bed I joined in with them and sang a meditative version of the hymn, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life.”

Next week will be the Leave-taking of Pascha, after which we will focus on the Ascension of Christ. At Vespers the evening before, we will sing all those rousing Paschal choruses for the last time liturgically. I know the little sorrows and worries, confusing thoughts and maybe even some big heartaches won’t disappear from my earthly life, and I will want to keep singing these re-orienting melodies of Christ’s transforming Life.

I’m counting on the birds to be my helpers.

What the women forgot.

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?

–St. Nikolai Velimirovich , Homilies

Myrrhbearing women at the tomb