12 April 2009

Christos Voskrese!

My husband and I are lucky to live within 20 miles of one of the few Russian Catholic parishes in the country. We've been going to Vespers there on Saturday evenings occasionally, and decided that we really wanted to spend Pascha there. Last night we went to the Easter Vigil at our parish, which was somewhat abbreviated because our pastor is old and does not have much stamina. Afterward, we brought five of our friends with us down to St. Andrew's in El Segundo. We got there a bit late--they'd already read the whole of the Acts of the Apostles beginning at 10p.m., had Nocturnes at 11:30, and were partway into the procession at the beginning of Matins when we arrived.

We stood through Matins. The choir sang continuously, and the three priests took turns incensing the altar, the icons, the congregation, and each other, and proclaiming "Christ is risen!" to which we all enthusiastically responded "Indeed, He is risen!" They also said "Christos voskrese!" and "Christos anesti!" Occasionally, one would say "Cristo ha recucitado!" or give the greeting in another language which I did not recognize (given that the church building is shared by a Melkite community, it might have been Arabic)--but these occasioned some giggles because no one knew the response. It didn't matter.

At the end of Matins, we all kissed the crucifix, the icon of the Resurrection, the Gospel book, the priests, and each other. The Russians kiss three times--right cheek, left, then right again. "Christ is risen!" "Indeed He is risen!" Kiss, kiss, kiss. "Happy Easter!" "Christos voskrese!" "Voistinu voskrese!" Kiss, kiss, kiss. "Blessed Pascha!"

Then Divine Liturgy began, and things were a little more serious and subdued...until we all broke out again into "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the graves bestowing life!" Finally, we have nearly reached the climax to which we have been building: "I believe, O Lord, and confess that Thou art truly the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first...of Thy Mystical Supper, accept me as a communicant, for I will not speak of Thee to Thine enemies, nor will I give Thee a kiss as did Judas..."

Then, of course, after singing "Christ is risen" about a dozen more times, the Pascha baskets are blessed and we eat! The food is good, and the company is better. I'm half afraid that we'll lose some of the Romans we brought with us to the Russians, but it's all good--we're all Catholic. My head hit my pillow at about 5:15 this morning, which might be the latest I've ever stayed out. My poor husband had to be at the Methodist church at 9:45 this morning, but he didn't seem too fussed as he went out the door (although he put on the same shirt and tie he wore last night, instead of the shirt I spent 20 minutes ironing yesterday).

I didn't have a very good Lent this year, but despite that, I really feel the Easter joy. As they said at Liturgy last night (this morning?), let those who came at the first hour rejoice, and those who came at the sixth and the ninth, and those who did not keep the fast--let all rejoice.

Tonight we go back to our Roman parish for dinner in the church hall--those of us who can't get together with family will celebrate with friends. A little bird tells me that there will be a bishop and a cardinal (not from our diocese) dining in the rectory with our two beloved monsignors. I'd better dress up, in case they decide to look in on us.

Now I must run along and pick up my lamb shanks from Whole Foods, so they'll have enough time in the crock pot with the cherries and onions before dinner time.

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