Making Some Noise: Anticipating Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell

So, who’s ready for Holy Week? When I first learned of the practice of making noise during the “Arise, O God” of Holy Saturday (which is in imitation of the uproar of hell as Christ enters into it and destroys the power of death), I thought, “This is awesome!” And then I thought, “How would you ever introduce such a practice into a parish?”…

No, Pascha does not have to be after Passover (and other Orthodox urban legends)

Right around this time of year, various articles and images begin circulating, giving explanations as to why the Orthodox Pascha (Easter) celebration is usually a week or more after the Western Easter. Most will mention something about the Julian calendar and how its spring equinox is different from the one on the Gregorian calendar. The traditional formula for the date of Pascha (the Paschalion)…

“Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb”: John Donne on the Annunciation

Students of Renaissance English poetry all get to know John Donne, that 16th/17th century priest and poet who vacillated painfully between whether to remain with the Church of England or to be a Catholic. He also vacillated between a life of devotion and the passions which afflict us all since the Fall. And his poetry reflects all this struggle. To my mind, perhaps his…

“Who Shall I Be at Pascha?”: The Cross at the Crossroads

Today is exactly the halfway point between the beginning of Great Lent and the holy day of Pascha (Easter), the Feast of Feasts. It is usually right around now, three and a half weeks in, that many of us begin to be ready for Lent to be over. But the fast is only halfway through. We have two and a half weeks of Lent…

Ego Patricius peccator rusticissimus

My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. This photo was taken in the summer of 2001 during a nearly month-long pilgrimage I took to Great Britain and Ireland. It was a dreary day in Downpatrick (and the photo was taken with real film! remember that stuff?), the place where St. Patrick returned to…

The Gospel of Fastnachts, Pączki and Pancakes

On the calendar of Western Rite Orthodox Christians (who probably number a few thousand people within the canonical Orthodox Church, out of a couple hundred million or so, which is why they are unknown to most Orthodox Christians), today is Ash Wednesday. So yesterday was their Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday (in French, Mardi Gras). And of course, these days were last…

Day After Christmas

On this day after Christmas, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Theotokos, remembering in a special way the Virgin Mary’s role in giving birth to our Savior. A number of our great feasts have a secondary celebration the day after focusing on what may be called the “supporting cast” in the feast. So, the day after the Annunciation, we celebrate the Synaxis…