Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Orthodox Easter celebrations 2011

This is actually a post I had to write for my Cultural Anthropology class.

On Saturday night at 11:30, one of the other missionaries and I went to part of an Orthodox service. The interior of the church was beautiful – no wonder Volodomyr was convinced to convert to Orthodoxy in 988! The walls were covered with paintings of Biblical scenes and saints. The iconostasis had icons of saints in ornate golden frames.

[More information about the cathedral/monastery I visited can be found here.]

I saw people proceeding through a line to view a glass coffin that held some part of a saint, after which they knelt and crossed themselves. (Did you know the Orthodox cross themselves the opposite way that the Catholics do?) Some time later, the liturgical part of the service began. The priest recited/read something that repeated “Lord, have mercy” and everyone would cross themselves and bow. (The liturgy was in Russian and it was even harder to understand than at my church.) Later there was some kind of responsive reading/recitation, where the priest read and the women’s choir sang. We left after this part.
My contraband photo I took inside the women's monastery church.
It is customary here for people to bring their baskets with their food to be blessed by the priest’s holy water in the wee hours of the morning. In the morning, I saw many people carrying their baskets with cloths draped over them that said “Christ is risen.” I knew that they had been to church that day.

Lady with her Easter basket
At the sunrise service, Zena’s mom talked about how Lenin was still dead and in his tomb. She can’t say that Lenin’s with her, but she can say that CHRIST is with her. Later, my pastor preached a sermon about how Christ conquered death—the unknown. This means we have power and victory, and that Christ can deliver us from fear.

Nazarene sunrise service
Easter is celebrated (at the church) for 3 days here, even though Monday was the only day off from work. I was near an Orthodox church on Monday, and could still hear them ringing the bells in celebration.

As I looked around at the people gathered inside, I thought of them as the people who ride the bus with me, who I pass on the streets. I wondered what impact Christ’s resurrection had on their lives, if they connected Christ’s victory over death to possible victory in their own lives (especially for the drunk people I saw later).

The ritual in the Orthodox church reminded that there are millions around the world celebrating with me, and millions (billions?) more that have celebrated in the past in similar or very different ways. What connects us all is the fact that we are rejoicing over Christ’s incarnation, sacrifice, and resurrection. The beauty of the church reminded me that God is a God of beauty – God makes “beautiful things out of us” (“Beautiful Things”, Gungor song).

1 comment:

  1. This reminded me of watching the events of La Semana Santa in Zinacantan, Mexico. I particularly like your photo of the woman with the bread. It reminded me of a photo that I have of the women of the village walking down to the church carrying buckets of water with flower petals in them to be blessed. I would have loved to have taken a picture of all the buckets lined up in the church, but no photos were allowed, and I didn't want my camera forcefully taken from me! They were really serious about their photo ban!