April 11, 2004

Christ is Risen!

Even though I've been chrismated since December 2001 last night was my first Orthodox Pascha. We went to Shrewsbury two years ago for Great Friday with every intention of going back on the Saturday night, but I ended up in the hospital instead. I can't remember why it didn't work out last year.

Mrs H stayed home with Aidie and I went to Shrewsbury by myself. I got there about 11:00 and thought I must be early because there were no cars in the lane leading up to the church. I didn't realise that for Pascha they open the gate onto the field to make room for more parking.

Since I normally can't make it through an entire Liturgy standing up, I staked out a spot at the end of the only pew in the church. I always feel a bit strange sitting down next to the old and infirm. Since my disability isn't obvious to most people, I'm sure they wonder what the healthy-looking middle-aged man is doing sitting while others are standing.

I know this is old hat to most of the Ortho-readers of this blog, but I was wonderful standing (and occasonally sitting) in the dark, listening to the choir sing about Jonah. The Church surrounded by darkness is the essence of Great and Holy Saturday. Unlike that first Great and Holy Saturday, when the Holy Apostles and the Myrrh-bearing Women must have sat in true despair, having forgotten the words of the Saviour, we sat there last night in true expectation. We knew the darkness was but for a moment.

Come recieve ye light from the Unwavering Light and glorify Christ, Who is arisen from the dead!

And just like the dawn of Resurrection morning, the light spread throughout the church getting brighter and brighter and reflected off of the gold surrounding the saints who were worshipping the Risen Christ with us.

After the procession outside, the Gospel reading, and the procession back inside, Fr Stephen shouted out Christ is Risen! in various languages. I'm not sure what all of them were. "Christos anesti!" was fairly obvious. (Those of you who have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding will remember that.) Since our eucharistic community in the Shire is of Russian jusidiction, I was also familar with "Khristos voskrese!". I could tell how familiar they were with the congregation in Shrewsbury by how strong the response was. There were lots of "Alethos anesti!" since it is a Greek church and even those who know no other Greek knew this. There was quite a strong group of "Voistinu voskrese!", but fewer of the others.

Given the long drive home, I had considered following the example of those who left after Matins. However, I figured I had come this far, I might as well see it through. I really had no desire to leave (and I'm baffled why anyone would want to leave), though by this point I had to sit quite a bit. Actually by this point, the few chairs had come out of the cupboard and there were other people sitting - even ones who looked otherwise able-bodied.

The Liturgy seemed to go very quickly. It was like any other Liturgy, except that the Royal Doors and the Deacon Doors were open the whole time.

I love the Gospel reading for Pascha. At 2:00 am in a candle-lit church, the words came alive:

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Is there any place darker than England? I thought of the neighbourhood behind the church and of the town beyond. Houses filled with people for whom Easter is a holiday, not a holy day. Children who have no idea why this night is different from any other.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and His own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

That is Pascha. Through His glorious Resurrection, the Light of the World has given us power to become the sons of God.

Christ is Risen!

Posted by david at April 11, 2004 01:53 PM | TrackBack