Who could have imagined a few months ago that we would be celebrating Pascha separated, in our own homes, not able to attend our beloved services together? With this current situation I am trying to figure out what we will do to mark the days of Holy Week and to celebrate Pascha. Two years ago I was newly postpartum and did not attend the Holy week and Pascha services, but my family did. It made a huge difference that they were going, and my kids were getting to experience the services, singing, participating in Holy Unction and soaking in the beauty and grace of the feast. They came home smelling of incense and while missing being in church myself was hard that tangible aspect gave me great comfort.
This year, we do not have this opportunity. We streamed Divine Liturgy this morning and Fr. Spyridon's sermon struck a chord in my heart that sounded in the form of my tears. He said,
"Our hearts truly ache with great emotion and great pain. Because we are separated and this is a very, very difficult thing. The Greek word for church is Ekklisía and what it means is the congregation and gathering of people. The whole essence of our church and of our worship is through the gathering of the people and it is in being together and gathering together in the name of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ so then the power of God comes upon us and gives us renewal and renewal of life and renewal of heart and mind and renewal of unity in our Lord. And so it is materially we are deprived of this profound reality and yet spiritually we must believe with all our hearts all our souls and all our minds that we are together. We are together in the Holy Spirit and may God bless each and every one of you and may He quickly gather us together in the flesh so that we can celebrate as we are meant to celebrate."
The beauty of Pascha is that it will happen whether we are in church or not. Whether we are together or not. The great sadness of this time is that we are not able to be together when it happens: to embrace, to say, "Christ is Risen" and hear "Truly He is Risen" from a sea of voices. We are not able to be in our church home to pray, worship, and celebrate together. While the few who are able to be in church to preform the services have the blessing of worshipping in person, they too feel sadness and the absence of the Ekklisía.
So, to help my family feel our spiritual connection to the church and the Lord's Pascha, we will do a number of material things in addition to our prayers. I still plan to do the usual things I do at home during this time, decorating, dying red eggs, making a Pascha basket, and making Pascha cheese and kulich bread. As this is such a unique time for all of us, I am also planning some new activities and ways to read the Gospels, stream services, and connect with others during this time of being apart. I've listed below some of the things I will be doing and compiled a list of the resources I will be using to piece together our services and celebration.
For Each Day:
I also plan to go through the "my Book of Holy Week" packets that I made for our Sunday school class a few years ago and bring out every year. The packets contains a coloring page Icon of the day, bible reading, and blank page that can be used for notes or drawing about the daily services. It also includes a Good Friday Nature Walk activity.
Sites I am following and finding really helpful include:
Tending the Garden of Our Hearts
Sylvia at Adventures of an Orthodox Mom
Sasha Rose at Sheparding our Little Flock
Saints Sergius and Herman of Valaam Monastery
Reader Services for Holy Week and Pascha
Fr. John Whiteford
*** I will post my red egg recipe later in the week. For preparations you only need about 2 cups Onion skins (yellow preferred), 1/4 white vinegar, water and eggs. ***
Source. God is love and the source of all that is good. The bounty and the beauty of nature, the light in our souls, and the beginning of dreams all flow from this goodness.