Monday, May 05, 2008

Pascha, Ransom from Affliction!

The myrrh-bearing women at the break of dawn drew near to the tomb of the Life Giver. There they found an angel sitting upon a stone, he greeted the, with these words, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why do you mourn the incorrupt amid corruption? Go, proclaim the glad tidings to His disciples."

Paschal Stichera, 5th Tone

This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it!

As the Lord would have it, this year's Pascha was different. This year's Holy Week was different as well; Great Lent was no exception. As some readers may know, there are now two Orthodox churches in this country; in addition to my parish, Holy Resurrection Church, Moscow founded the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God late last year.

Great Lent flew by this year, owing to the fact that I had not invested as much effort and time as I should have. One found oneself implicated (by one's own choice for the most part) in the quagmire of Roman Catholic affairs throughout Great Lent. It was a fruitless endeavour spanning the duration of Great Lent and Holy Week, and one emerged from the fiasco an embittered, poorer man. I should have directed my efforts to prayer and contemplation. I should have listened to my godmother about interfering in the spiritual lives of others. As they say in America, hindsight is 20/20.

Holy Week, or Passion Week as we call it, was somewhat lacking this year. One is accustomed to attending the numerous services bringing to memory the sterile fig tree, the wise virgins and the fallen woman who repents, but sadly, there were none. Holy Resurrection Church, my parish, was evicted (for reasons still unknown) and was only able to procure a temporary location from Great and Holy Thursday onwards. The Russian chapel, on the other hand, had no services during the first three days of the week either for reasons still unknown.

The day of Resurrection arrived soon, and caught one by surprise - it shouldn't have; had I been paying attention, I would have known the troparia of the first three days of Holy Week had warned, "Behold, the bridegroom comes in the middle of the night".

Great and Holy Saturday passed the same way it did for the past five years: I answered questions ("Constantine, do you know where can I buy kulich?"), researched ("Did the Holy Fire descend this year?"), conversed at length with my godmother (currently in Romania) and rested in preparation of the night's events.

A little fun before embarking on the whole three hours of the Paschal services

The sanctuary was sumptuously draped in celebratory red; the relics of Pope St Clement and numerous others are visible to the right and left of the royal doors

The evening of Holy Saturday saw the largest gathering of Orthodox faithful in church this year - it is the the feast of feasts, after all. Nobody wants to be left out.

My request to serve was denied, and I was condemned to marinate with the hundred or so people who turned up - the Paschal crowd was split into two groups this year (one for each church), but I barely noticed the difference.

We had invited close to twenty visitors from the Roman Catholic Church, but apparently, a saboteur had spread the word that our Paschal service lasted till 6 am and the bulk of these Catholics, balking at the thought of standing for seven hours, refused at the last minute. Why so many chose to believe this person instead of calling Edward or I is beyond comprehension...

Despite being confronted with an outlandish liturgy in an alien tongue, some friends still came! Only a mere three were to last the night.

Even the pious are unable to stand throughout: Vikotoriia takes a much needed rest outside the chapel

Being at the Russian chapel, there was to be no Arabic or Romanian this year (although, the nuns performed a rather odd rendition of the Greek Paschal troparion). Pity, I was looking forward to that.

You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!

St John Chrysostom

Proclaiming the Resurrection: Христос воскресе!

The three who survived the services had no stomach to stay for the festivities. A great loss it was, for the Russians, more than any other ethnic group in local Orthodoxy, love to eat, and numerous women had worked tirelessly to prepare the fine feast awaiting us after the long Paschal liturgy. You can't find better East Slavic food any where else in Singapore; after all, everything was homemade, and much love and care went into their preparation.

The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

St John Chrysostom

2008 broke all previous records for the number of kulichi prepared locally

Forty days of abstinence (meat, eggs and dairy) and three hours of standing is sure to work up an appetite. The remaining congregation rushed for the food, particularly meat, as soon as they were blessed.

Despite hunger and lethargy, Russians are still quite capable of being picky

Meat!

The food was enjoyed thoroughly: Alexandra & Viktoriia

Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave.

St John Chrysostom

Nine-year-old Elizaveta remained wide awake even throughout, having ingested 1/2 of the world's sugar supply before arriving

Not everyone was as alive as Elizaveta was: a visibly tired Mother Olympiada, the choir mistress, manages a smile

Fighting back lethargy, one had a wonderful meal, met many new people (the late hour was a potent recipe for bloopers: one was speaking to a lady for a good 2 minutes or so before realizing she spoke no English) and chat with parishioner and visitor alike. For the first time since I discovered Orthodoxy, a "youth group" was formed that very night for an hour or so. Its microscopic number notwithstanding, one thoroughly enjoyed oneself talking to people of similar age group.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

St John Chrysostom

And how true his words were, for that night was truly a feast!

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4 Comments:

Blogger Francis said...

Pascha looked like a good time. I'll have to come next year for all of the fun. =P

Mon May 05, 07:28:00 am 2008  
Blogger Ian said...

Christ is Risen!

And wow: looks like a wondrous Feast of Feasts was had by all.

Mon May 05, 10:24:00 am 2008  
Blogger Karen said...

Christ is risen! Glad you had such a wonderful Pascha liturgy and feast. May the rest of the season be blessed.

Mon May 05, 11:35:00 am 2008  
Blogger -ben said...

Hey! You forgot to include pictures where Eddy Woogy appeared to plaster himself against the wall in the chapel -- in order to avoid my beeswax candle of goatee-burning death.

*sizzle*

Mon May 05, 02:19:00 pm 2008  

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