I have been reading Kyrie's blog, Are So Happy, for over a year now. Recently, she revealed that she and her family have been attending an Orthodox Church in their area. Please check out the post she wrote yesterday about their first experience of Pascha! It is a truly moving and beautiful piece!
I have to be honest with you; Easter has never really been my favorite holiday. It's always seemed to me to be all jellybeans and Peeps and fluff. I made the Easter dresses (even though we didn't really have anywhere to go). I filled their Easter baskets with gifts (that didn't really mean anything, other than to signify that it was a "holiday").
I tried, in the past, to make Easter be about new beginnings, the earth awakening from the long winter, the natural world coming back to life. Though it intellectually rang true I didn't feel very new beginning-ish, or that things were really "coming back to life." Nor did I ever feel the mystery, the anticipation, the giddiness that I do around Christmas.
If you had asked me, I would have told you that I liked the chocolate (and the excuse to get together around a table full of good food with the ones I love). A sort of ordinary holiday, just barely fancier than our everyday.
This year is our first year celebrating Easter (Pascha) in the Orthodox Church and my mind and heart have been forever changed. It truly is a season, taking all of the 40 days' fast that precedes it, the sorrowful Lenten services, Holy Week (when the pain of death is felt most keenly; those who surrounded Him then did not have the benefit, as we do, of knowing What Came Next).
It is the apex of the liturgical year, the reason that the Church exists. The anticipation is acute. The mystery is all-encompassing. The miracle of the Resurrection is truly shocking, an amazing thing to contemplate.
Last night, with real excitement, we woke the girls up at 11:30 to go to church. We went up the stairs to the chapel; we heard the bells and smelled the incense and watched as the room was plunged into deepest black. There, in the company of our brethren, the unquenchable light was passed from candle to candle until our faces were glowing.
We processed down the stairs in song, around the church, to the front door. We heard the three knocks and went back upstairs to LIGHT, a light gloriously bright, and laughter, and joy, and the chorus of "Christ is risen!"
By 3:30 in the morning, we were all exhausted with joy, our hearts full.
When we got home, we had a small family feast in front of the fireplace: sweet bread, chocolate, ham. Food made so much more festal through our abstinence. Fellowship made so much more special through our shared experience.
Today there was Agape Vespers, and an Easter egg hunt, and Easter dresses, and, yes, jellybeans. But for once I didn't feel that I needed to carry the burden of making Easter "special" for my girls. This time it was special on its own. A miracle remembered and re-enacted every year. A gift that means so much more than anything I could make or buy, that is so huge as to almost be incomprehensible. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
I am far from having a full understanding of this miracle, but I can tell you I felt it deep within my-self. A transformation of mystical proportions, that we are invited to be a part of.
Perhaps, after all, Easter is my favorite holiday.