Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Death of the Old, the Birth of the New

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus – the only sinless One. We venerate Thy cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Thy holy Resurrection; for Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee; we call on Thy name.

Come all you faithful; let us venerate Christ’s holy Resurrection. For behold, through the Cross joy has come to all the world. Let us ever blessing the Lord, praising His Resurrection, for by enduring the Cross for us He has destroyed death by death.

Jesus has risen from the tomb, as He foretold, granting us eternal life and great mercy.

There has been so much to be awed at, so much to say – but I have been absolutely drained. The last week has had me in a constant state of preparation – to be received into the Holy Orthodox Church by the sacrament of holy baptism, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time and of course, for the great and holy feast of our Lord’s Resurrection.

At 7:20 a.m. on 22nd April 2006, I stepped out of my home as an Orthodox catechumen – one not fully in communion with the Church. Ten hours later, on the same day, I returned as an Orthodox Christian.

I thank those who attended and witnessed this important event of my life – and my most profound gratitude to those who kept me in their prayers in the days leading up to baptism. I also want to thank again those who have given me gifts to mark that day.

I awoke for good at 7 a.m. (I awoke a few times during the night – I was not able to sleep) upon receiving an SMS text message on my mobile phone. It was Royston – congratulating me on this momentous occasion. I managed to obtain my mother’s blessing before I left (none of my family members would be present). Though, admittedly, she was in a state of being half-asleep at that time. My father, on the other hand, willingly gave his and asked that I show more love toward my family after baptism.

I arrived at church late – but only because I had to wait for a friend (I could never be late on a day like this). Unfortunately, Carmen my godmother was not able to be present that day but fortunately for me, Maria was willing to stand in for her. I was incredibly tense before the baptism – there was a little voice inside of me telling me I was not and never will be worthy for holy baptism. I prayed to our Lord and Lady, as well as to my patron saints for mercy, peace and the courage to face my inner demons.

Reciting the Nicene Creed with Maria

Anointed with the Blessed Oil before baptism

"Water destroys a form of life but produces another; it immerses the old man and makes the new man to emerge."
Nicolas Cabasilas

Incorporated into Christ through baptism, I now receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and become a member of the people of God

At 11 pm at the same day, I arrived at church for the celebration of the most holy feast of the Resurrection – I was positively tingling with anticipation (Pascha makes every other celebration of any sort look bland by comparison). Not to mention the fact that this was the only time of the year I meet certain friends (yes, the once-or-twice-a-year Orthodox).

The Paschal Vigil
I was called to serve at the altar that day. For me, this was a dream come true – I had always wanted to don the sticharion and serve at the altar. Being directly in front of the altar filled me with awe to the point that it was almost frightening. This was the holy place – the place no woman may enter, the place no layman without a valid reason may enter and most importantly, the place where bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of our Lord.

However, as I learnt after that experience – I was more useful being part of the congregation rather than serving in the altar. As a server, I was to remain silent (though I wasn’t for a good part of the Liturgy, shouting responses to the Paschal greetings as well as singing quietly along to the hymns). As part of the congregation, I could guide visitors as well as Orthodox-who-don’t-come-regularly through the Liturgy. Times like these really make you want to re-examine your purpose, or rather, what you thought your purpose in life was.

There were many quirky happenings during the Liturgy that I definitely had to blog about:

The Paschal Hymn was sung in the most number of languages this year - English, Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Latin (yes, even Latin) and Romanian. I'm especially happy that the Slavonic was sung in the Znamenny melody (instead of the usual Obikhod, which I find difficult to sing along to) this year! =)

Proclaiming the Resurrection to the World

As the Third Antiphon (around 12:30 a.m.) was sung, the first line went: “Let God arise! Let His enemies be scattered…” – the vast majority of Greeks were leaving. There is something mildly amusing about them leaving when that particular line is being sung…

Latin visitors (left to right): Ernest, Norman, John and Anthony

Anthony, one of our Latin visitors, was a riot with the filioque. He accidentally blurted “and the Son” – force of habit though (it was his first visit to an Orthodox church after all); no malice intended. It received a raised eyebrow from those who noticed - nobody went ballistic, thankfully (hehehe). The other Latins had no problem reciting the creed of AD 381.

The Paschal Greeting - it looks as if I'm kissing Olesya in this picture

During the Paschal greeting, as members of the congregation went up to greet Father (along with other members after that) as well as to receive the triple kiss, many of them kissed my right hand as though I were priest. I let one or two go, but after that, I was either pulling my hand away (mock screaming “Nooo!”) or hugging the parishioner before he/she could take my hand.

Alright, end of amusing events during Pascha.

A close friend was not able to attend Pascha. She was, however, an ever-present sight during Great Lent and especially so during Holy Week – which begs the question: which was better – to be present throughout Great Lent and Holy Week and miss Pascha, or to miss everything and be present at Pascha (as it is with most people)?

I choose the former.

I will remember her in my prayers.

Some pictures taken after the Paschal service:

Edward, visibly tired after 3+ hours of chanting

Norman and I, looking very dapper!

Elizaveta with her mother

Edward, Mary and I

Pascha this year was marred by a few unfortunate occurrences that took place after the service. However, I wouldn’t be so unkind to do myself and others the disfavour of reminding myself and others about them. As the Paschal atmosphere slowly dies down (it’s been 4 days already and I’m still not over the joy of Pascha as well as baptism), I try to recall a time when Easter was not Pascha.

You know what I mean.

Christ is Risen, truly He is Risen.


Blogger Mimi said...

Indeed, He Is Risen!

Wonderful photos. Congratulations and Many Years to You!

Fri Apr 28, 02:01:00 am 2006  
Blogger Francis said...

Excellent! Thanks for the pictures, so that we could "be" there with you. ~.^

Fri Apr 28, 08:22:00 am 2006  
Blogger Ian said...

Truly He Is Risen!

Congratulations, and God grant you many, many years!

Thank you for allowing us who are separated by distance to share this wonderful occasion with you through your vivid descriptions and photos.

> Pascha makes every other celebration
> of any sort look bland by comparison

Indeed it does. And I would think especially so when you have just been Baptized.

God bless.

Fri Apr 28, 07:06:00 pm 2006  
Blogger Eric John said...

Christ is risen!

Welcome to the Church, Constantine!

Ochen' priatna poznakomitsya! It's a blessing to meet someone from the Church of Singapore! I have visited your church's website (or another Singapore Orthodox church) and gotten some very nice icons of the New Martyrs of China whom I love a lot.

Hope you had and are having a restful and joyous Bright Week!

Sat Apr 29, 03:47:00 am 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

god bless you and your fellows now and always.
A new friend in the USA

Tue Mar 06, 04:02:00 am 2007  

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