Tag Archives: Artos

Candles and flowers for Pascha.

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life!

The last several days have been kind of a blur. We Orthodox were “in Jerusalem,” our rector kept reminding us, following Christ step by step from the day He was acclaimed and lauded with hosannas, on through His last meal with those men closest to him, His prayer in Gethsemane, betrayal by Judas, a farce of a trial… and on to the cross on which He offered Himself for our sakes. Every day of Holy Week we had at least two holy and liturgically rich services, sometimes three.

This year I was able to participate in these beautiful and moving services more than ever before, and to feel the continuity of them, at the same time seeing afresh how each is unique. This was the first time I thought, after Vespers on Holy Friday, “Oh, I must try to come tonight again, for Matins of Holy Saturday, because there will be the reading from Ezekiel about the dry bones, which in the whole year I can only hear tonight.” And stronger still was the need to be with family whose Beloved was suffering; how could I think of resting at that point?

But we did all occasionally have to go home for sleep or to eat a bite and many people of course must work or attend school. So between my car and my front door I would take a picture, and when I went out in back between rain showers to get some more firewood I took some more. I am in love with the new fig leaves and miniature knobs of fruits.

Saturday we gathered at 11:30, under clear skies; at midnight we streamed slowly out of the church with singing, and came back to the porch to hear, “He is risen! Why seek ye the living among the dead? Christ is a stranger to corruption!” I took some pictures that are blurry, but I guess that’s appropriate. I was so sleepy, my mind was a bit foggy, too, in a happy daze.

Children slept in a jumble of blankets on the floor, or played with the melting beeswax of their candles. Adults like me are often seen playing with their candles, too! Before the service started I sat on a bench along the wall and kept putting my unlit candle to my nose to drink the heady honey scent.

I had an extra friend from church stay here for a few days to reduce her driving time. She brought me pale pink tulips, so lovely. And Trader Joe’s had stock in other perfectly Paschal-Spring colors, from which I made my first stock bouquet ever. In the garden are dozens of calla lilies that I will bring in tomorrow.

We returned for Paschal Vespers on Sunday afternoon (So strange to sleep, and then eat breakfast on a Sunday morning!) and then a BBQ and picnic. And this morning the radiant Bright Monday service, processing with decorated Artos bread. The weather has been perfect for the last two or three days, but more rain is coming. What a blessing all that rain is; and I’m glad I don’t live where it snows at this time. But even there, it would be springtime in our hearts.

By Thy Cross, Thou didst destroy the curse of the tree.
By Thy burial Thou didst slay the dominion of death.
By Thy uprising, Thou didst enlighten the race of man.
O Benefactor, Christ our God, glory to Thee!

Flowery and Bright Week

When I walked up to the open doors of the church this evening of Bright Thursday, the flower scents streamed out and welcomed me to Paschal Vespers. Inside, the altar doors are wide open all this week, and after the service the decorated bread called Artos was placed before them. It stays in the church all through Bright Week, representing our risen Lord, the Bread of Life. This Sunday we will cut it up and eat it together.

Pots of lilies and bouquets are all over the place, and many icons are draped
with flowers carefully and lovingly arranged.

I want to back up and show you some scenes from Pascha, starting with the midnight service and our procession around the property, after which we arrived back inside the church to sing “Christ is risen!” by means of many words and melodies. We did this for a few hours, ate our joyous agape meal, and got to bed about 4:30 in the morning.

I was battling a cough that kept me from many services last week, but I managed to come back for Bright Monday Liturgy. This service always has a lighter and sweeter tone than Pascha, perhaps from the daylight that warms our bodies and reveals the beauty of the church. And of course, we are rested a bit, and not so wired as we were Saturday night.

Tuesday I drove a couple of hours to “Silicon Valley,” to attend the funeral of a dear uncle. I spent that night with an old friend, and we walked in the afternoon along the Guadalupe River Trail, a refreshing green space in the middle of urban and suburban sprawl.

Hummingbird Sage
Flannel Bush

Wednesday I was heartened to spend some time with my husband’s cousins and pray at the grave of a man of prayer. He had included me and my family in his prayers for decades.

Now I am back home, and taking care of my garden again.
Flowers are bright here, too, of course!

Christ is risen!
Indeed He is risen!

Beautiful Artos

artos 15 crpHere is this year’s Artos, the blessed bread that remains in the church all during Bright Week, one more reminder of the Resurrection and of how our Lord is The Bread of Life.

I’ve been looking at other photos of loaves of Artos and truly I think our parish has the most gorgeous! In a few days we will all get a piece to eat. I happened to go into the church kitchen last week while the dough was being kneaded, so I know it has olive oil and orange zest in it, but other than the wheat itself I don’t know what other flavors it holds.

The Gospel reading at the Bright Tuesday Liturgy told the story of the disciples meeting the risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus, and I was very moved by it. I seemed to feel as never before how their world had collapsed when Jesus was crucified and dead. How heartbroken they must have been, to be suddenly without the One who meant everything to them, who was their very life. And then to hear how He, not recognized, spoke to them, and “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24) The drama of this well-loved story grew in my heart as our priest read the passage.

When they convinced Him to stay with them that evening, their eyes were opened as they broke bread and ate together, and they knew Him. Then He vanished from their sight, and they realized that even though they hadn’t at the time realized why, their hearts had “burned within them” as they had listened to Him on the road.

My heart was joyful, and I got chills thinking about the unspeakable gift of breaking bread with God, partaking of the Holy Mysteries and by that sacrament receiving a kind of knowledge that can only come by His grace.

And we are only halfway through Bright Week! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

artos 15

(This is my 900th blog post!!)

Every tongue and flower.

first sweet pea Pascha 14

My first sweet pea opened on Pascha. At church the roses are abundant, and I’m grateful to be in a temperate area of the Northern Hemisphere where we can be extravagant with our flowers.

Here at home our snowball bush is going all-out for Easter. When he was a boy, Mr. Glad and his sister often had their Easter Sunday photo taken in front of a snowball bush; today I brought some of the blooms in to put on the dining table.

snowball etc Apr 21 2014

Of course, if we lacked flowers, we would still have eggs to color, and white/bright clothes to wear with our smiles and beaming faces.

I surprised myself with a desire to color eggs this year, but time ran Paschal_Egg_ Bolton Ontario Canadaout, and I displayed our small collection of pysanky for the holiday. This red egg is not one of them – I found its picture on the Web.

P1090657

Another tactile and tasty symbol associated with this week is the loaf of bread called the Artos, about which I wrote last year when I was for some reason blessed to carry it in the Bright Monday procession.

Artos Bright Monday 14
Today’s Artos

But this morning what most impressed me was the sounds of worship, because our parish had many guests from two other Orthodox parishes in the area, from the Antiochian and Bulgarian patriarchates. Our Orthodox Church in America made the third. Historical events and migrations of peoples have led to the development, over centuries, of these ethnic distinctions between parishes, and we look forward to the day when the situation can be rectified.

In the meantime, we have the opportunity locally to demonstrate our unity and the glorious historicity of our common liturgy by gathering on this brilliant and shining day to pray, and to sing “Christ is risen!” in more languages than I could identify or count, not just in the Arabic, Bulgarian and English of the clergy, but others including Russian, Spanish, German, and of course Greek. Not only the words, but the tones of the hymns and the styles of chant vary quite a bit, and maybe just because it is more exotic, to my ear the Arab-style chant is especially soul-stirring.

This 10-minute YouTube sampler of many styles of Orthodox Easter hymns includes some in English, some with the lyrics displayed on the screen with the icons, and quite a few are of the sort we might typically sing in our parish, but it doesn’t include anything like what I have heard in the Arab churches near here. This one comes the closest to the deep baritone voice and style of the cantor who has often led us in worship as he did this morning. But for today’s congregation of a majority of American-born converts, I was thankful that he sang most of the hymns assigned to him in English.

Truly the Kingdom of Heaven comes to us in the Divine Liturgy, and at Pascha, as is described in the scriptures:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.’

 Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!P1090660