A lot has happened since my Holy Friday post, including three services on Holy Friday (Royal Hours, The Taking Down from the Cross and Lamentations); Holy Saturday Liturgy with two baptisms and seven Chrismations; making lamb soup; Paschal midnight service; Pascha brunch with friends; Agape Vespers (Sunday afternoon) with egg hunt and picnic. It’s no wonder that when I got home from the picnic after 7:30 last night I crashed on the couch and woke up three hours later! Pascha weekend is always like a marathon, especially since it follows on the heels of Holy Week, which offers nine services!
It was a joy to have my daughter, Beth, home from grad school this weekend, and I dragged her down to the Mississippi River to enjoy sunset together on Saturday, four hours before the 11:30 p.m. service began at St. John. Three hours later, she was serving up lamb soup with me in the church kitchen at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. The fellowship hall was so crowded that we enjoyed staying in the kitchen where a steady flow of folks joined us for champagne toasts and lamb soup ‘til the wee hours. I think we got home around 4:45 a.m.
After a few hours of sleep we went to a Pascha brunch in the home of our dear friends (and the parents of our Goddaughter, Sophie) and relaxed by the pool in the sunshine for a couple of hours, until it was time for the weekend’s finale—Agape Vespers.
I have a confession to make. By 3 o’clock on Sunday afternoon I was already “coming down” from my Paschal high, and I was trying to garner some enthusiasm for yet one more church service. Riding to the church in my friend’s convertible with the top down, while his 5- and 7-year-old daughters were belting out the chorus to Julio Iglesias’ “Mama Blue” in the back seat, I was enjoying the wind in my hair and the sunshine on my face and I looked at my friend, who was driving, and said, “Do we really have to go to church?” Of course I said it in jest, but once we arrived the 5-year-old asked me at least ten times, “is it almost over?” so that the egg hunt could start. So I tried to help her enter into the service, even though I was also ready for the egg hunt so we could go back outside. And then, during the final service of Holy Pascha, we got a little something extra.
After the Gospel readings in twelve different languages (by eleven parishioners and one priest) Father Nikolai (our Assistant Pastor) reminded us of the joy the Gospel readings had spoken of. His face was radiant, as it had been on Saturday morning when he spoke briefly after the baptisms and Chrismations, reminding us that the newly illumined were close to God’s heart, and so we should embrace them, and ask their prayers for our loved ones. As we began going forward to venerate the icons, the choir began singing this beautiful Easter song. I think it was in Spanish, but I’m not sure. It just lifted my spirits and reminded me that the joy of Pascha morning—of Christ’s resurrection—would carry me through the rest of the day, the week, the year.
The joy followed us downstairs and out the back door to the egg hunt.
And into the fellowship hall for Corky’s barbeque.
And out onto the front lawn for a picnic. Mothers with new babies arrived. And grandbabies. Friends and family together on the most gorgeous Easter Sunday I can remember.
We were entertained by our fellow parishioners, Ann Catherine and David on bagpipes.
And later David joined Nicholas, Bill and Nathan, dubbed the “Agape Pickers” for the day, who took us past sunset with their rousing tunes.
Sophie (my goddaughter) and Isabelle (her sister) joined me in a dance just before sunset.
And so the joy continues with “Bright Week.” Bright Monday always feels a little sleepy to me, and there is laundry to do and groceries to be shopped for and bills to pay and workout routine to recover, but the light of Christ, which illumined the Church all weekend, illumines our hearts as we go forward into “normal time.”
Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!