The following is a four-image synopsis of the events of Pascha at Saint Herman's. If we missed you, I pray we might connect soon.
"For those who labor, and those who sing..."
At St. Herman's, that's EVERYONE!!!
The Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom
There are still baskets to be blessed.....
Finally! Can we eat now?
It's only 1:45AM.
The party lasted until about 3AM.
The faithful began to arrive for 1130 Nocturnes by 1050PM..... Most knew that the Chapel would be filled to capacity. Some brought extra chairs (which were a positive blessing!!!).
When Nocturnes began, there was a general hush inside the Chapel. The solemn and beautiful hymnology of the Canon filled the room. Candles were lit, but their warmth was overwhelmed by the prayers of those present!
When the Ninth Ode came about, all were singing, "Do not lament Me, O Mother, seeing Me in the tomb, for I shall arise, and be glorified with eternal glory in that I am God...." As the "I shall arise..." was sung, the Winding Sheet was lifted from the tomb. The Body of Christ entered the altar, to be placed onto the altar table for 40 days.
Soon, all the candles and lights were extinguished. Total blackout. And even though the room was filled with faithful, there was not a sound. Then, from within the darkness, seemingly as bright as the sun, a single candle is lit in the altar, accompanied by the clergy singing, "Come receive the light, from the unwaning light, even Christ our God, Who is risen from the dead." The flame was passed from clergy to faithful, person to person, until the room was ablaze in flickering light, as the procession began.
Upon returning to the entrance of the Chapel, the cemetery (where the Chapel is located) was filled with a resounding, "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life." One could almost feel those surrounding us joining with us in song!
The Chapel was re-entered, filled with lights ablaze, brighter than bright, for the room is filled not only with man-made light, but with the Light of Christ! More singing, the Canon of Pascal Matins, "This is the day of Resurrection, let us be illumined, O people, ....", followed by innumerable "Christ is Risen" refrains.
Liturgy begins, and the Eucharist, which we celebrated only 14 hours earlier, takes on a whole new dimension, for now the Body we eat, and the Blood we drink are of our Risen Lord, He who has conquered death, put death to death, overthrown the authority of hell, and freed all whom it has held captive from the time of Adam.
Liturgy ends, and the Chapel empties for a brief few minutes, so that those who had been keeping baskets of food in their cars could retrieve them (for there's just not enough room in the Chapel for worship and food at the same time....).
The floor overflows with bread, eggs, cheese, ham, kielbasa, all the things from which the faithful have faithfully abstained for nearly 8 weeks. More, "Christ is Risen" refrains, and prayers over the food. Then, fellowship - sharing foods we've missed, sharing hugs, greetings of "Christ is Risen" with one another, holy kisses, and sips of wine.
Finally, most can go no longer, and at about 3AM, the room holds only five or six, who regretfully say goodnight to one another, but not parting without yet another, "Christ is Risen!", for this is our JOY! Yes, we've missed the food. Yes, we've labored with fasting, and many long services. But we've longed to greet each other in this way, for this is who we are as a people. We are a people who live for our own resurrection through the Resurrection of Christ!
And, if you haven't heard, CHRIST IS RISEN!!!