Nicky and I went to services at the monastery for Holy Easter on Saturday evening. Again, we decided not to take the main motorway, for we felt that the time savings were minimal and did not justify the tolls. Not only that, but the motorway is a rather sterile place with nothing but the noise of the traffic about one. Instead, we were treated to the lovely sounds of God’s nature coming from the fields about us. We could hear the chirping of the crickets in the grass and the croaking of the frogs in the ponds. It was as though the natural world was praising its Maker… let everything that breathes praise the Lord! As there was minimal traffic on Route 20, we made very good time and we arrived at the monastery at 22.40 after leaving Albany at 21.15.
When we entered the main church, it was darkened and one of the seminarians was reading the Acts of the Apostles. I listened carefully… it was in perfectly accented SPANISH. This made my ears prick up, certainly. An older lady came in a wheelchair and was having difficulty in negotiating the crowd in the nave. Some of us helped her to manoeuvre about and held her chair for her so that she could light candles and venerate the plashchanitsa (the full-length icon of Our Lord Christ laid out in the tomb laid on a bier). Nicky and I got on line for confession. As we were waiting to make our confessions and receive absolution the bells were tolled in a funereal manner at 23.00. The choir came out into the centre of the nave near the plashchanitsa and sang the midnight office. This took some 45 minutes to serve. It came my turn for confession, and I poured out my heart to Fr George, the priest on duty. When the midnight office concluded, the church was silent. For some 15 minutes, from 23.45 to midnight, the church was in silence, and the only sound was the tolling of the bells in the funeral tone. The clergy removed the plashchanitsa from the nave, and generally made preparations for the procession around the church. It was raining slightly, and my knees were acting up due to a recent injury, so, I stood on the porch during the procession. Just prior to the procession coming to the church, one of the monks rushed onto the porch and rudely shouted at the people on the porch in a brusque manner. THAT wasn’t necessary.
We re-entered the church and the Easter Matins began. The sanctuary was lit as bright as it could be, and the joyous shouts of Khristos Voskrese, Khristos Anesti, and Christ is Risen could be heard echoing about the church. The replies of Voistinnu Voskrese, Aleithos Anesti, and Indeed, He is Risen echoed in response to each proclamation. The chief celebrants were Fr George and Fr Luke (I stand under correction in this). There was the usual controlled and happy confusion of a Russian service, as was illustrated by the crowd pulling back instinctively from the clergy as they incensed the church and made the Easter proclamation. To be honest, one can see the same thing amongst all the traditional Orthodox nationalities. You see it in Greece, you see it in Serbia, you see it Rumania, in fact, wherever there are Orthodox Christians, you see it. This is what the recent converts lack. They are not comfortable being Orthodox. That is why they need time to take it all in, time they are not given in the OCA and AOCANA.
Well, my knees were close to collapse, so I sat for the remainder of the services, “for it is better to sit and think about God than to stand and think of one’s feet”. Of course, I stood for the Gospel and the consecration, for that is proper. Although the church was packed, there was good order throughout it all. One observes the people about one, and it was a snapshot of all the types there are in the Church. There was the ill-at-ease affluent couple standing together (instead of being on their respective sides, as were all the rest of us). Young fathers had their hands full with toddler sons on the men’s side. Mothers sat with their infants. Iova the Fool was there. One fellow was wearing his Cossack ensemble. Grandmas and grandpas, moms and pops, kids and teens, we were all there for the feast. In fact, I would say that it was a youngish crowd, which, of course, is a very good sign.
Towards the end of the matins the clergy gave the Easter greeting one to another. There was an interesting little detail in this. The three acolytes serving were part of this, and it pleased me to see how the clergy reacted in a very spontaneous and paternal way to the smallest of the three, who appeared to be about five-years-old. From my vantage point, I could see their smiles and fatherly embraces of the tyke. It gave a special glow to the whole undertaking, and it reminded me of the Scripture saying, And a little child shall lead them. At 01.30, the service segued into the Liturgy proper. The Gospel was read in Slavonic, Greek, Latin, English, and German. At 02.40, the communion of the laity began. There were two chalices, yet, it took some 20 minutes to commune all of the faithful. After this, the liturgy quickly came to a conclusion, ending at 03.15. I saw Nicky’s sister Christina and gave her the Easter greeting.
After the liturgy, the brotherhood gave the Easter greeting personally to all who were present. I remember a beaming monk from Russia who joyously and loudly said “Christ is Risen!” in a heavy Russian accent. This illustrates one of the changes that are going to happen at Jordanville. The folks from Russia are not obsessed with preserving “Russian culture”. If you want that, you need only hop a plane to the rodina. Of course, our ancestral culture IS important; it does mark us off from Anglo-Saxons. However, I believe that the MP wishes to use Jordanville in particular and the ROCOR in general, as a missionary arm of the Church. This change in the ROCOR’s calling is beginning to come into focus, and I believe that there are those who oppose such. This is why all Russian Orthodox Christians in the Americas belong in the MP. We need to be engrafted yet again onto the mother tree, which is bearing such sweet and abundant fruit. It is time to “leave childish things behind” as the Apostle told us. There shall be those who shall choose to not leave the sandbox. What I saw on Easter in Jordanville is etched in my memory. To my Russian Orthodox brothers and sisters I say, “Come and see”. When you have seen, I know that you shall feel as I do. It is time for us to fulfil our Lord’s prayer, That they may be as one. It is the best gift that we can give our children.
CHRIST IS RISEN!
INDEED, HE IS RISEN!
28 April 2008