Tag Archives: Artos

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.


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

It’s a joyful day, whatever day it is.

Pascha goes on and on! So we have Paschal Bright Week services, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday….

Christ rose on the first day of the week, Sunday. The Church has always considered this to be be the eighth day as well, the beginning of a new order of things. I don’t really understand this. But our bishop mentioned it this morning, Bright Monday, when he talked about the grace that extends throughout the week hinting at the newness of life given us in Christ’s Resurrection.

We all are feeling the newness. Today we lived in the joy of Christ’s presence and celebrated it in many ways, including a loaf of bread. This year it was baked by a young girl with the help of a more experienced baker. It must weigh over five pounds — I know, because I was honored to carry it in the procession around the church, and then standing on the porch as the gospel for the day was read.

This bread is called the Artos and “symbolizes the physical presence of the resurrected Christ among the disciples.” It will remain in the church all week and be carried in procession after Divine Liturgy those days; on Saturday it will be cut into pieces and distributed to the parishioners.

Below is a photo I found online of a Bright Week procession elsewhere.¬† It seems it might be the only photo available — maybe everyone wants to actively participate in these blessed processions and not stand apart to be a photographer.

On Pascha night I remembered that I have a piece of last year’s Artos in my refrigerator. I’m sure I was saving it for a time when I was ill or afflicted, and I must never have thought that I was terribly bad off at any time during the year. Praise God for that. So I’ll have to eat it for joy this week and put a new portion in reserve for any upcoming needs. Having been exposed to the air for a whole week it becomes dry and keeps very well!

The day of our Lord’s Resurrection is another case, it seems, of how we live in the present life and at the same time we live in the reality and anticipation of God’s coming Kingdom. St. Gregory Palamas wrote in a sermon “On the Sabbath & The Lord’s Day”:

Whatever is said in praise of the 7th day applies even more to the 8th, for the latter fulfills the former. It was Moses who unwittingly ascribed honor to the 8th day, the Lord’s Day. The Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:8ff), which Moses regarded as a year of forgiveness and named accordingly, was not counted among the ‘weeks of years’ under the law , but came after them all, and was an eighth year proclaimed after the last of these 7 year periods. Moses did the same with regards to periods of 7 weeks.

However, the lawgiver did not only introduce in this hidden way the dignity of the 8th day, which we call the Lord’s Day because it is dedicated to the Lord’s resurrection, but also on the feast called “Trumpets” referred to the 8th day as ‘the final solemn assembly’ (cf. Lev.23:36 LXX, Numbers 29:35) meaning the completion and fulfillment of all the feasts. At that point he clearly said that the 8th day would be holy for us, proclaiming in advance how divine, glorious, & august Sunday was to be after everything pertaining to the law had passed away.

But I see that Metropolitan Anthony in a passage I quoted just last week tells us that we are living this present life in the Seventh Day:

…the seventh day will be seen as all the span of time that extends from the last act of creation on the part of God to the last day, the eighth day, the coming of the Lord, when all things will be fulfilled, all things will come to an end, reach their goal, and blossom out in glory. It is within this seventh day, which is the whole span of history, that the creativeness of man is to find its scope and its place.

In this whole span of history we have much work to do, including our bread-baking and flower-arranging to celebrate Christ’s rising from the dead. St. Isaac of Syria tells a bit about how the fullness of our Eighth Day is yet to come, and seems to see things somewhat differently from Met. Anthony:

The Lord’s Day is a mystery of the knowledge of the truth that is not received by flesh and blood, and it transcends speculations. In this age there is no eighth day, nor is there a true Sabbath. For he who said that `God rested on the seventh day,’ signified the rest [of our nature] from the course of this life, since the grave is also of a bodily nature and belongs to this world. Six days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping the commandments; the seventh is spent entirely in the grave; and the eighth is the departure from it.

It certainly is a mystery to my small mind, but I am always comforted by these realities of the faith that show how great is our God, and His plans for us, so high as the heavens are above the earth, that they are hard to grasp with our minds. And I’m full of that joy that is not received by flesh and blood, of the glorious risen Savior Christ. He is here every day.