Today is the day in the Orthodox Church where we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This year our Easter was a week later than every one else’s, thanks to calendar differences between the Eastern and Western Churches.
Easter in the Orthodox Church is real sight to behold. I grew up Roman Catholic and was familiar with the Midnight Mass and all the other details within the Catholic Easter Service. However after I was introduced to Orthodoxy I realized the Orthodox Easter Service was a whole different kind of party.
I attended my very first Orthodox service when I was 15 years old. My dad had just caught the Orthodox bug and wanted more. We had been invited by my aunt who was already Orthodox at the time. and so Dad and I got up and went to this special midnight Orthodox service in Riverside, California.
The church itself was actually in a strip mall and when the service started, I didn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t even realize that it was an Easter Service! But there we were at my first Orthodox Church service, and it was Pascha. It was one of the longest church services I’ve ever attended. I remember we ended up marching around the building, holding candles, saying prayers and then cracking red eggs? I totally had that deer in the headlights look. What a way to experience Orthodoxy for the first time! (And talk about being thrown into the deep end!)
12 years later in a little Mission Church in North Idaho, my wife and I converted to Orthodoxy. Since then we’ve been able to experience the joy of many Pascha celebrations. It is truly an event that I look forward to every year.
This year was a little different. Covid 19 has spread around the world shutting nearly everything down. Orthodox church services have been live streamed and members of the church have been stuck at home participating in service from their living rooms. Even the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which has been open since 1349, has recently been forced to close their doors due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
So here we are in the year 2020, living lives of isolation and self quarantine. And yet because of social media and online interaction our community has been able to band together! It’s almost as if Satan wanted to close every Church but instead a new Church blossomed in every home. Or like in my case, a truck.
Stuck behind a chain-link fence in the middle of a gravel lot, I sat in my semi truck preparing for my own one man Pascha service. I had no candles or incense, heck I didn’t even have my own crucifix. However I was determined to make something out of what I did have, and in my own way I would celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection.
Next to one of the loading docks I found a large piece of cardboard and after peeling a a few of the dirtier layers off I finally found something a little more usable, I took it back into the truck and with a sharpie and a knife, I cut out my own three bar Orthodox cross. Then I placed an icon of Christ to the right of the cross, and an icon of the Theotokos on the left. I then closed all of the curtains in my truck and grabbed my phone. On it I had an audiobook version of the psalter and I figured if I turn my flashlight on and had the audio psalter playing, I could have the right ambiance for an at-home personal service. I couldn’t actually live stream any of the Pascha services, because I was in Canada. You see, Verizon Wireless has a nice little caveat when it comes to their unlimited plans. You’ll get unlimited data when you’re in Canada but only 500 megabytes per day will be high speed. I have to use my international data very carefully because I rely on it for my job and I knew that if I participated in any live streams my daily allowance would be up quickly.
So from 8:30 to 10, I listened to the psalter read out loud, and then at 10 p.m I pulled up “Resurrection! Orthodox chants and hymns of Holy Pascha” by Archangel Voices on Spotify. I don’t want to go into detail what happened personally for me during my own little service because each individual’s unique interaction with God is personal and unique, but I will say that I did feel like I was with in the presence of God and that even in my little truck, he had risen. I will also say that I was moved to tears at one point last night simply because I wanted to be celebrating this service actually in church with my friends and family, and not hundreds of miles away from everyone that I know and love. I really miss my Orthodox community.
Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen!
Thanks for reading my blog post everyone. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since my very first Orthodox service. Time sure does fly! I hope you all have a wonderful day of Celebration and I hope we can all get back together, as soon as this coronavirus mess is over. In the meantime, stay safe, wash your hands and don’t forget to love your neighbour.
Until next time,