|Grave with exuberant rockrose|
Today is Radonitsa or The Day of Rejoicing, Tuesday of Thomas Week in the Russian tradition, though some Orthodox churches visit graves on Thomas Sunday. My parish doesn’t have a churchyard (yet) so we don’t have a gathering in the church with traditional foods, as is the Old-world custom. But several of us joined nuns from the nearby skete at a cemetery not far away and sang a service of remembrance, alternating with joyful Easter hymns. It was a warm day on a dry hill; the sun was toasting the weeds underfoot and making them smell like cookies in the oven.
The Resurrection icon at top shows several elements that signify the ramifications of Christ’s rising from the dead, and every version shows in the center Christ pulling Adam and Eve from their tombs, from Hades. David and Solomon and Abel and John the Baptist and others are featured – we all are raised with Christ, as the church books explain:
Having previously celebrated the radiant feast of Christ’s glorious Resurrection, the faithful commemorate the dead today with the pious intent to share the great joy of this Pascha feast with those who have departed this life in the hope of their own resurrection.
This is the same blessed joy with which the dead heard our Lord announce His victory over death when He descended into Hades, thus leading forth by the hand the righteous souls of the Old Covenant into Paradise. This is the same unhoped-for joy the Holy Myrrhbearing Women experienced when discovering the empty tomb and the undisturbed grave clothes. In addition, this is the same bright joy the Holy Apostles encountered in the Upper Room where Christ appeared though the doors were closed. In short, this feast is a kindred joy, to celebrate the luminous Resurrection with our Orthodox forefathers who have fallen asleep.
My own parish comes out of a Russian tradition (though we are presently mostly Americans without Russian ancestry, and part of The Orthodox Church in America.) So we keep this day, which even St. John Chrysostom mentions in the 4th century. After the short service we all walked around scattering eggshells on graves and calling those who have fallen asleep, “Christ is risen!”