Category Archives: Pascha

Midfeast Blessing with babies.

Though it was a small crowd this evening for Vespers, two babies and a toddler were among our number. It is a great joy and encouragement to have a lot of babies in the parish at this time; I can think of five right off the bat who are still infants, plus several toddlers.

Of course the older children are beloved, but there is something special about the littlest ones, who look around curiously, and whom we get to know as we watch them “grow in wisdom and stature” from week to week. Our rector mentioned at the beginning of his homily last week, how wonderful it is to hear baby sounds in the church. He chose a moment when the baby noises were quiet and happy enough that he could be heard over them.

When we came into the church this evening, the infant baptismal font was set up in the middle, but inside was a big tub containing water to be blessed during the service, not for a baptism, but because it is the midpoint between Pascha and Pentecost, when this event always happens– as it always does at Theophany, when we celebrate Christ’s baptism.

The middle of the days has come,
beginning with the Savior’s Resurrection,
and sealed by the holy Pentecost.
The first and the last glisten with splendor.
We rejoice in the union of both feasts,
as we draw near to the Lord’s Ascension:
the sign of our coming glorification.

The toddler toddled, and one little girl crawled around, or was carried by her mother from icon to icon, where she reached out eagerly to touch the faces of the saints. The choir sang the Vespers service; it was a quiet and mild evening, but the sun had not gone down. The youngest baby present had been baptized only this week; she lay sleeping in her mother’s arms. After the blessing of the water, the priest walked all around the church sprinkling the icons and us. Then we drank.

One line read out from the choir was from Isaiah 55, “Ho, everyone that thirsts, Come to the water!” And we remembered the Gospel story from Sunday, about the healing of the Paralytic, and the water of the Pool of Bethesda that an angel would stir from time to time, giving it healing properties.

This prayer, based on another event in the life of Christ, expresses the tone of the evening’s service, and our joy:

Thou didst come to the Temple, O Wisdom of God,
in the middle of the feast
to teach and edify the Jews, the Scribes, and the Pharisees.
“Let him who thirsts come to Me and drink the water of life!
He will never thirst again!
Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water shall flow from him.”
How great is Thy goodness and Thy compassion!
Glory to Thee, O Christ our God!

Lessons they were learning.


Some poor stranger strolled beside them
On their long and lonely walk.
Kind and wise, He gently plied them,
Why such sadness in their talk?
How their hearts within were burning
When His wondrous Word He taught!
Precious lessons they were learning,
Though they recognized Him not.

So when worries of desertion
Your emotions overtake,
And you question God’s assertion
That He never will forsake,
Let your soul embrace the tidings
Ringing from this tale so true:
Even when the Lord is hiding,
He is still right there with you!

-Edward A. Morris


Death is over, Pascha continues.

Every experience of Pascha in the Orthodox Church is going to be unique, and I suppose a person might remember past celebrations and compare one to another, but there is no question that this year was the best. Last year was the best, too. Because right now, whatever year it is, is the Pascha that has come to us now, and Pascha is a gift from Christ, from His Church, to us, His Church. We receive the Kingdom of God into our souls, just as the mercies of God are new every morning — especially Pascha morning.

“Death is over,” our rector preached this afternoon at Vespers, and the choir was even more robust than last week, with fourteen mostly big men (and several women) singing the triumphant resurrectional hymns, and many of the rest of us singing along with our favorites.

But let me backtrack to earlier in Holy Week. I spent all day Wednesday working on my red egg project. I’ll write more about that later, because to my surprise, the “experiments” continued all the way to Friday, involving about 365 eggs in all. I was still learning things this afternoon, so I will write a thorough report for the benefit of future red egg-dyers.

Our Holy Friday services, of which there are three, begin with Matins of Holy Friday on Thursday evening; it is to me one of the most beloved of all the week’s services. It is long, because 12 Gospel passages telling of Christ’s last days are read, solemnly in the middle of the church, while we hold candles and let our hearts be taken into that moment in God’s time. This year I made it to the other two services, too, on Holy Friday proper. Then I crashed.

The morning of Holy Saturday I took my turn and read the last two hours of the Psalms, by the icon “corpse” of Christ. Probably I should have been content to sign up for just one hour; I guess I was greedy! My voice was getting hoarse by the last half hour…

Then it was time for the baptisms; it was an especially meaningful day for me,
because I am the sponsor for the young woman who became “newly illumined.”

After that long service, taking most of Saturday afternoon, and the Eucharist, we had wine and freshly baked sourdough bread, to break our fast and to keep us going a little longer.

I went home and managed to take a nap before our midnight service. Orthodox Christians can’t wait until nine or ten o’clock, as we would on a typical Sunday morning, to meet and worship. Not at all. We want to be already gathered in the church by 10:00 or 11:00 o’clock, so that we can have time to process around the whole church property, and then be back at the doors to sing “Christ is risen!” as soon as the clock has changed to Sunday.

From 2010.

There came that glorious breaking forth of jubilation, with the chandeliers laden with flowers and set to swinging; ladies and children in their long white skirts, or frilly Easter dresses; deacons repeatedly walking up and down censing the whole temple; and the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom, and the first chapter of John’s Gospel, starting with:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

So much joy, in the risen Christ, our life and our light. What can I say? We feasted on Pascha, and then we gathered in the church hall and broke our Lenten fast together with earthly food: chocolate cake, mascarpone cheese, our red eggs, salami, chicken wings, and wine. Those were just a few items I saw at our table. I got home just after 4:00, and remarkably was able to be asleep before 5:00.

Today was the Paschal Vespers, which was richer and more elated than I ever remember. But maybe I myself was just not as tired as some years! Then the Pascha picnic, and a chance to spread ourselves on our blankets over the grass or at the picnic tables, and catch up for hours in a very relaxed way, watching the babies crawl around, and the tug-o-war competitions.

I’m going to reset my body clock tonight, I hope, and attend Bright Monday’s Divine Liturgy in the morning. For this Bright Week we will have frequent reminders of how Christ’s death ended death, and that his resurrectional life sustains us every hour of every day; Pascha continues. Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

Holy Week revealed in a symphony of images.

Four years ago I shared this rich iconographic tour that Jonathan Pageau gives us of “The Icons of Holy Week,” posted on the website of the Orthodox Arts Journal. World events since then made me forget everything I read and saw here, so I am glad to have come across this post again in time to have my understanding broadened in time for this last leg of our journey to Pascha.

I encourage you to click on the link if only briefly, just so you can see Pageau’s exquisite stone carving of the Crucifixion at the top of the page. But of course his actual tour (of about 30 minutes) begins with Palm Sunday, and he continues through the week bringing to light mysteries of Christ’s passion as depicted and revealed in the several featured icons, leading up to and including His glorious Resurrection.

Jonathan introduces the topic with brief comments about the Notre Dame fire that was probably still burning as he spoke, and about the state of the arts and Christianity in the West. He goes on to show us the interrelatedness of the images specific to the season and how they sort of “talk to each other” as they reveal the deep theology and meaning of these holy days.

“Understanding the Icons of Holy Week”

The video is posted on the website of the Orthodox Arts Journal, but if you like to hear Jonathan talk about the arts, philosophy and theology, he has a YouTube channel, The Symbolic World. Some people lose track of time playing games on their computer, but my personal temptation is to watch Jonathan’s videos late into the night.

Whenever it comes to you, I wish you all a most blessed and salvific Easter!