Putting These Times Into Perspective
This year, 2020, we certainly experienced a memorable Easter period. It is tempting to compare the deprivation we have endured in our lifetime to the deprivation of services, the observance of old Russian traditions, and the anticipation, joy, and exuberance we have experienced on Easters past with the travails that our ancestors went through during the period of the Bolshevik Revolution and the emigration and loss of all that was dear to their hearts. Of course, that would be a completely erroneous comparison. Our ancestors, in many instances, had to flee for their lives, abandoning all they owned, losing loved ones to the cruelty of the Bolsheviks, giving up the beloved traditions that had been followed since Rus’ became an Orthodox nation, being deprived of the unique, beautiful, and spiritually uplifting services in the period preceding Holy Pascha, and yes, even weeping helplessly at the sight of the wanton destruction by the rabble of so many beautiful and historical places of worship in every city, town, and village of that vast land. Our fears and anxieties pale in comparison to the terror our great grandfathers and grandmothers, our grandparents, and in some cases, even our parents experienced at the sound of bullets flying close to their ears, the sights of beatings, robbery, rape, and executions of the perceived enemies of the Revolution. Our anxieties, worries, and concerns are small relative to theirs as we worry about social distancing, masks and gloves, the continued health and well-being of our loved ones, the harm which our children experience from distance learning, and, very importantly, continued employment and sources of revenue to pay our bills.
Thanks to God’s great mercy, we still live in a country that honors the RIGHT to worship freely (albeit restrictively at this time). We do not fear for our lives or our property from crazed mobs (although we do fear for the fatal nature of this pandemic) or from unrelieved poverty, hunger, and destitution since we have a generous social safety net made more generous by the government’s infusion of money into the economy. In short, we are infinitely blessed to live in this land, at this time instead of the times our ancestors had to endure. Yet despite their destiny, our ancestors kept Pascha in their hearts not only all year long, but during their lives on earth. Perhaps that is one of the many reasons that the churches we worship in and honor were built with such passion and personal sacrifice by the people who actually went through the difficult task of raising money, obtaining all the permits and planning, negotiating, and ultimately building these well-loved churches, which are our spiritual homes today. Memory eternal to all those on whose shoulders we stand today!
Our Paschal season availed itself of today’s technology by streaming the services, and our very own Father Alexander and his brother clergy made sure that Confession, the Holy Sacraments, and all other personal needs of our parishioners were met with obedience to the orders of the civil authorities and of Vladika Kyrill’s instructions. The Sisterhood, undaunted, still made kulichi and pascha as well as verbiy, and carefully thought-out instructions on how to pick them up were given to everyone. And the Sisterhood determined that the House of God must be festively decorated as always for the greatest Holy Day of our calendar and for the period thereafter. Our Gatti Angels, Dave and Steve Gatti, provided us as usual with an abundance of choice Easter lilies, which opened up just in time for the great celebration (no mean feat that! Flowers open up on their own schedule and not by the dictates of man!). Also as usual, they very generously brought us many more lilies than we had actually ordered without charge. Thank you Dave and Steve, and God bless you and yours for your kindness.
In addition, our regular florist provided us with beautiful mums, carnations, and other flowers to decorate the Platshanitsa (Shroud) as well as most of the icons. In short, although a little less lavishly than usual, our church was decorated festively and beautifully for the occasion. The rest of the church was also decorated as usual with beautiful ribbons, flowers, and garlands on the banners, the Royal Doors, the lampadas, and the columns, thanks to those who take care of this labor of love year after year.
Of course, we missed the live singing of the choir, the smell of candles and incense, the fragrance of the lilies and other flowers, and the enthusiastic greetings of Xpuctoc Bockprece! (Christ is Risen!) of our Father Alexander and the equally enthusiastic responses by the assembled parishioners of years past, but Father did very full-throated greetings, and the choir responded with great joy as well. In short, our church made the best of it, and in keeping with the thoughts of Father Alexander and Abbot Tryphon expressed in our previous newsletter, we turned our gaze inward and did the best we could to remember the spiritual nature of our celebration of Pascha. Given the deprivations of this year, we earnestly pray that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that next year, by God’s mercy, we will return to our usual, joyous celebration. In the meantime, we will keep this Paschal season in our hearts throughout the year and forever!