the fasting, the feast, the fire
There is so much to Pascha in the Orthodox tradition. It’s a rich bounty of Liturgies, opportunities to connect, to pray, to wait, to watch, to breathe deep. Each service has its own particular draw, its own voice with which to speak. None speaks to me at this point in my journey as well as the midnight office. This is to be expected I suppose. It’s the most visible and tangible offering of Pascha, at least on the surface.
This year marks my 4th year of attendance at this service. Each time I learn something new, each time I feel a little less awkward and a little more as though I belong. The real truth of it is that it’s going to take a long time for me to take it all in as fully as I’d hope…and I accept that, grudgingly.
This year we’ll miss the Agape Vespers that happen at about 1pm on Resurrection Sunday (Easter Sunday.) Last year I brought everyone to this in the bright sun of the daylight, a strange counterpart to standing outside the church at 12am on the still busy Chicago streets as cars honk and bells ring and we sing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death on death!” This year we’ll miss it because after we arrived home at 3:30am my boys stayed awake, laughing and playing. They could not be convinced to sleep. My own attempt was fitful at best because the sound travels so well in this house. 1pm today finds us still awake, still strangely joyful but nevertheless beat. We’ll lay in my bed instead, talking about video games and the amazing food at the feast after Pascha. We’ll talk about homework and school friends and maybe we’ll watch youTube videos of something mindless.
And in all of this I’m moved to tears thinking about standing in that darkened church on Holy Friday, thinking about the candles that brought the light at midnight on Pascha, about the candles we could not keep lit as we walked around the block, about my aching feet after a lengthy service and about the three cheek kisses that greeted me after the Liturgy ended, about the rousing “Christ is Risen!” offered by my priest as he nearly ran around the church with the trikirion and censor and about our spirited response each time, “Indeed, He is risen!” It’s all too much and in the wake of it I find I am consumed with the richness of it. It’s too much and I only tasted a bit of it. There’s more and I sit here today wishing for it, pining for it again, planning for it already.
This is the stuff. Right here. I’m a unrepentant convert on fire at this moment, I admit it.
Thanks be to God.