Sunday, April 27, 2008

Great and Holy Pascha

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

After Friday evening's service, we were so excited when Saturday came and preparations for the great Pascha feast could be made. The kids had been practically drooling every time meat was mentioned throughout the week. Ben was actually counting the hours until he could eat meat.

Saturday morning was filled with sports - the girls and Ben had opening day of baseball season and JT played a winning lacrosse game. After that, it was home for a day of preparing food, minds and bodies for the celebration of Pascha. Tad spent the day baking
various breads and I put together the miscellaneous things the family wanted in our basket - finishing up the beef jerkey Adora started on Friday, baking the ham, bagging up the fried chicken Adora spent her morning making (LOTS of fried chicken - not so traditional Pascha fare in our basket!), cutting up some fruit, baking a cheesecake and trying to remember the random details like a stick of butter and a candle for the blessing of the baskets.

If I was proud of my hrudka, Tad had even more reason to be pleased with his breads. First he made three loaves of sandwich bread for the ham. He made a beautiful braided bread with the eggs cooked right into it out of the whey from the hrudka. It was sooo delicious with the taste of that sweet whey! The eggs should have been colored red but we didn't have time to mess with the natural dyes our family requires to get a deep red so he just put them in there un-dyed. He also made a paska with a cross and a braided decoration on top. Those turned out very pretty as well. I'm sorry I didn't get pictures of that. His kulich didn't quite get finished so we left that at home, which was ok because we still must have tried 5 others as all the baskets were opened and shared. All in all, we ended up with 3 baskets to fit all the meats, breads and cheese and misc stuff that everyone requested. One basket was just for Philip with his SCD foods and he had a great time digging in for all he could eat from it.

All that complete, we put the kids to bed after supper (slightly earlier than the usual bedtime) and I went off to take a nap. Ben was set to have his alarm go off at 10:45 and Tad was in it for the long haul. I had done all my pregnant body could handle and put myself to bed around 8:45.
Tad woke me from a very sound sleep and announced that it was 11:45 - the service had started 15 minutes earlier and we still had to get everyone up and dressed! We managed to make it out of the house by 12:15 (am, that is) and arrived at church just in time to find everyone outside knocking on the door to get back into the church after the procession. We were terribly disappointed to have missed the entire first part of the service, including the glorious transition from the dark vigil to the Paschal celebration, but it is a nice thing about the Orthodox church that one can arrive 45 minutes late and still be there just in time for the last 3 hours of the service. (Although we did give Pani Chris and some of the others a bit of a scare as they once had a family not make it to the Pascha service due to a baby who arrived in the world 4 weeks early.)

All the children brought sleeping bags and pillows and were sprawled out in the back of the room
where we worship. In spite of their comfy sleeping quarters, every one of them stayed awake the entire time except for our Philip who had been told he was going to sleep in church so sleep in church he did (sometimes that autistic mind comes in handy). Even Nathan and Nehemiah, probably the youngest two there, managed to stay awake until they were plopped into their own cribs at home.

What a joy-filled service! The choir was full of life and song and Fr. Greg didn't stop smiling the entire night. He censed us again and again with the incense shouting, "Christ is risen!" and we would reply, "Indeed He is risen!" To which he would echo the same in Ukrainian. We didn't quite get the Ukrainian response - maybe next year. His joy was infectious and kindled by the constant repetition of the Paschal hymn - Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! Never before have I experienced an Easter celebration so full of the promise of life. Reminded again and again of Christ's victory over hell and the sickness of sin, of his trampling down of death, we cannot help but be gloriously pulled from the tomb ourselves along with our ancestors Adam and Eve. It is the celebration of my favorite holy icon and Christ my super hero has arrived to save the day!

The traditional sermon of St. Chrysostom gave me great comfort at having arrived late with our family:

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him now receive his recompense. (that line's for you Ben - it's almost time for MEAT!)
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

By the time Fr. Greg read off the eleventh hour, I had the point - no use crying over our tardiness, Christ had still redeemed us and we are still invited to share in His victory!

After the blessing of the bread and the eggs, we retreated to the back of the room where the Pascha baskets were waiting for us.
Fr. Greg read out the blessing including the blessing of the flesh-meat and the curdled milk (although he did substitute cheese for that). I got such a kick out of hearing the flesh-meat blessed. After so long a time without meat there was no doubt about what we were about to consume. If you can see the clock in the picture it does indeed read 3:00 am. At shortly after 3:00 we all sat down and broke our fast together and it was a wonderful family meal. It was about 5:00 am by the time we staggered home, got everybody shuffled back into bed and settled down for the "night". The Lord is merciful to provide such a rich feast for the body, the mind and the soul on this glorious celebration of His Resurrection!


DebD said...

What great memories! You have a husband who bakes!!?? Lucky. What is it about pastor's (or former pastors) who bake? My sister's husband who is a Lutheran pastor also bakes. I think I married into the wrong profession. LOL.

Christ is Risen!

JTKlopcic said...

Well ... I like bread! I also like tinkering with bread's complex interplay of biology and chemistry and physics. Plus, the dough is fun to knead when it's really gooshy....

I was going to toss is something sanctimonious about serving The Bread of Life, but the truth is more self-serving -- to enjoy good bread I have to make it myself.

However, Orthodoxy does consider bread baking to be a sacred art. You can read all about it at

Mairs said...

My friend Dani emailed me a little history lesson. I thought it was interesting enough to add here for the edification of all:

I was intrigued by the expression "flesh-meat". As a history teacher, I can tell you even as late as the American Revolution, "meat" was a generic name for food - e.g., Thou givest them their meat in due season. "Sauce" was anything that accompanied the main dish - vegetables, bread, etc. but not necessarily gravy! So flesh-meat would be an archaic (but entirely correct) way of announcing the end of Lent without specifying ham, beef, lamb, and so forth.

Very nifty.

Anonymous said...

You said: "The eggs should have been colored red but we didn't have time to mess with the natural dyes our family requires to get a deep red so he just put them in there un-dyed."

What natural dyes do you use for a deep red color? I have used madder root, but it is hard to find and even harder to grow. Any other suggestions for a deep red?

Thanks and Happy Pascha!

Mairs said...

We would have tried beet juice or carmine powder but I'm not sure either would have gotten the penetration in the egg shell to get that deep red. It's going to take a lot of experimenting to get a red that dark...I've never heard of madder root...with a bit more time I might look into that one...