Christ Is Risen!

Pascha has begun… if you listen carefully, you can begin to hear the bells sounding from the East. Christ is risen!

This delightful youtube video is a favorite of mine. One of our readers and an occasional commenter,  Dejan, (without a doubt my favorite Serb) provided the English translation.  The words are from a poem by St. Nikolai Velimirovich who served for a time as the Rector of St. Tikhon’s Seminary – truly one of the great Serbian saints of the modern era.

Translation:

People rejoice, nations hear:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Stars dance, mountains sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Forests murmur, winds hum:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Seas bow*, animals roar:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bees swarm, and the birds sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

Angels stand, triple the song:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Sky humble yourself, and elevate the earth:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bells chime, and tell to all:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Glory to You God, everything is possible to You,
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

 

27 comments:

  1. Christos anesti! I first saw this on your blog a couple of years ago I while I was just beginning to discover Orthodox Christianity, but this Pascha, as a recently chrismated Orthodox Christian, it brings tears to my eyes – of joy and gratefulness! Christos anesti!

  2. Hristos a inviat ! (Christ is risen- in Romanian).

    Thank you, Father Stephen.
    I have been regularly reading this website throughout the whole of Triodion. No matter how far apart or how scattered we are throughout the world, we have made this wonderful journey up to the Resurrection together as we are all united in the Church and in Christ!

    Rejoice all of you who have fought the battle throughout Great Lent and those of you who have not. Those who have fasted and those who did not. No matter the hour in which you took up the work, come and receive your payment, for Christ has risen for all!
    Peace to everyone!

  3. Father bless.
    My wife and I have been catechumens for only 9 months and therefore we were not able to be received this Pascha. Were in our mid 50s and have no small children at home. We attend a very large Orthodox Church in California and have been struggling to fit in with the Orthodox families. For my wife and I who are watching and trying to participate in these Pascha celebrations, we feel like were alone, as if in a dark corner, watching these glorious family celebrations from the outside.
    We have been participating in the Divine Liturgy throughout Lent and Holy week but because we’re not yet Orthodox and we can’t yet be received, and were not students or college age and we don’t have small children at home; because of all this we haven’t been able to make friends as we would have hoped to by now. And now, during this time of celebration, we feel as if were alone, almost as if were at someone else’s family reunion.
    Why am I telling you this? I’m not sure, maybe just hoping you will understand and maybe write something that might help others in the Church to consider those who are like my wife and I. Celebrate indeed, Christ has risen! Yes, but also please help others to be mindful of those of us who are still looking in from the outside. Those like my wife and I who desperately would love to join you in celebration, yet because of our circumstances, we don’t yet know you. We want to love you and be apart of your family, we want to celebrate with you, to be a part of you, to have what you have. And yet here we are, in this place of aloneness, with you yes, but still feeling as if were looking in from afar. Thank you father, father bless.

  4. Michael, I know exactly what you are talking about. It can be a lonely place. Yet if you persist and as my wife taught me, ignore the perceived barriers things will likely change.

    Once you are Christmated you become part of the larger family in a way you are not now. That may not bring you friends in the way you desire but everything changes.

    You will be connected.

    Part of the process of coming into the Church is a realization that you are not there yet.

    However some people expect a certain type of fellowship which may not materialize.

    The connectedness will be there however.

  5. Dear Michael, et al.
    I too was a late bloomer as were some others in my parish so I know, and, I imagine, many others know your feelings. Although I was received into the Church 4 years ago, I sometimes feel like I belong in the parking lot, or the alley behind the church. I still bow my head deeply and look to the doors when the prayer to the catechumens is read, as I yet harbor many errors. My godfather once stated that all that proclaimed Christ incarnate were Orthodox despite their errors. Your Chrismation will not confer a legal status upon you, though your months of watching and participating are either for your salvation or for naught. I think, by your confession here, it is for the former.

    I’m trying to say that you may be more connected to the body of Christ than you feel. We (the Church) are going through a terrifyingly dynamic age where all are tried, both personally and corporately. We are not immune to alienation and loneliness. I know this and experience this. Fr. Stephen can address this much better than I can, but I can say that I feel for and with you.

    I wish that I could personally kiss you and proclaim that Christ has risen from the dead. You’ve doubtless heard it many times today, though you feel outside the joy and celebration at your parish. Oh man, I do know what you’re feeling.

  6. Michael,
    I believe that your patience -a clear manifestation of obedience demonstrating your increasing union to Christ- is not without its blessing. Believe firmly, that when you invoke Christ’s name -even now- you partake of his resurrected Body and Blood. Even now… This is not a delusion but a truth. The unbaptized Martyrs who were baptized in their own blood manifested that the complete Grace was with them before their final “Baptism of Fire”. The Monks who serve at the kitchen must rush in at the time of Holy Communion and partake of the Mysteries, then rush back to the kitchen with no time to contemplate or concentrate on what is going on like the rest, however, again, there comes another time when God ‘pays them back’ what they are owed…
    God is pleased with your faith far more than with mine (who has marred my baptism countless times) and His Light is constantly growing inside of you.
    He partook of our Death so that we can partake of His Life.

  7. Dino, I’m comforted by your story about the kitchen monks. I took off work today, so I could go to Bright Monday Liturgy, but because I was still responsible to get my daughter off to school, had to take care of my dog’s needs, and especially because I didn’t want to go empty handed to the coffee-hour potluck afterwards (thus putting the burden on everyone else), I really didn’t get time to pray the preparatory Communion prayers in advance of the service. I was feeling bad about that (and I recognize it’s not the ideal situation), but I’m comforted all the same by the example you cited. At those times, I pray God will see and accept the other sacrifices I am making to come to worship and accept those as my prayer of repentance and preparation for Holy Communion as well.

    My own Priests have always stressed to me during Confession that we do the best we can with the various disciplines of the Church–fasting and prayer, etc., but what really matters is our heart towards God and our neighbor. Without that right heart attitude of love which comes from faith in God’s goodness, even the most “perfect” fulfillment of the disciplines of the Church can’t really benefit us, but when we come in our unworthiness yet with genuine love toward God, He makes up for whatever we lack.

  8. P.S. Michael, I was about a month shy of my 47th birthday when I was received into the Church, and though my husband gave me his blessing, he remains in his Evangelical church (as do our children) to this day (although also attending my parish with me frequently). I know that loneliness. My advice would be (similar to that of others), the feeling of being “outside” in the way you describe doesn’t come from God, but from our own insecurities. (Let it be admitted, this can be compounded by the quality of the life of our parish–some parishes are simply healthier and more grace-giving than others.) As we learn to accept God’s grace even in our incomplete and imperfect state, we become more relaxed in giving and accepting grace from others as well.

    In the short term it can be a trial and temptation, but in the long-term I believe it is a blessing that, unlike in many of the Evangelical churches from which we come where the push for “outreach” and mission to newcomers often results in a quick and superficial friendliness that may ease our passage to a new church yet not sustain much real depth of commitment and love among its members (and we are forgotten as soon as we are no longer part of someone’s small group, for example, or if we leave the church for a new community), in the Orthodox Church such relationship-building happens in a much more natural and organic way by just being and working together in a parish for a length of time. It can be more difficult and slower going with a very large parish, such as yours. Be patient, and as you have opportunity, offer your talents and energies to your parish community. Can you cook or help clean up for coffee hour, organize, help the Sunday school teachers, do some office work for your priests, help with tidy up and spring planting on the grounds? Ask your Priest(s) for ideas of how you can help out. You don’t have to wait for Chrismation to be involved in these ways, and it’s a good natural way to get to know others better in the parish as well as your clergy. Some Priests are better than others at welcoming and plugging people in to the life of the parish, and they tend to set the tone for the whole parish. My own Priests, especially our founding Rector (now Rector emeritus), are exceptional in this regard.

    In my parish, the founding Rector simply started the tradition early in the parish’s history of assigning all members to the schedule of families and individuals to take their turn to host coffee hour (with 3 or 4 other families) by bringing and serving the food after the Liturgy for what amounts to a couple of times a year. When new members arrive and remain, he simply adds them to the roster. The result–we get to know others, others get to know us (and our cooking specialties), and we always have lots of good food at coffee hour at my parish! 🙂

  9. Thank you everyone for your encouraging words and wisdom. I am feeling much better today as I had a scheduled day off and went up to our local mountains spending time with our Lord in nature on this beautiful spring bright Monday.
    I must say though that this season of Lent with all the fasting, Liturgies and culmination in Pascha was one of the hardest Easters that my wife and I have ever experienced. As a former Protestant and even Roman Catholic the past Easters were never as difficult as this Pascha was. I think the reason is because the emphasis of Orthodoxy has much to do with community (the Church) whereas in Protestantism is was more of an individual experience with our risen Lord.
    This brings a question to my mind that I hope those of you that have been so encouraging will continue to bear with me and help me with this one as well.

    Can you describe for me your community experience of Pascha? Or for that matter your community experience of the whole liturgical calendar? I mean in comparison to your individual experience with Christ? Or are they both one and the same?

    I ask this because I believe this is why this Pascha was so difficult for my wife and me. We’ve been rightfully learning to pray the Liturgy as community but now at this time of year when there’s the most interaction with others in community feasts, processions, picnics, etc., we not yet able to relationally connect in the way that is spiritually true, the way we have been learning to pray. So what happened was that I got discouraged and fell back on personal individual communion with Christ.

    Pascha was discouraging in not being able to relationally connect with community in the way that I’ve been praying and today Bright Monday was very encouraging in that I spent time alone in the mountains with God.

    So back to my question; what is the Orthodox community experience, and is it that, or will it ever be that, of our experience with God while alone with Him in prayer?

    Thank you for bearing with me, forgive me.

  10. For Michael and his wife, feeling left out –

    I identify very very very much, but am joyful – grateful at being Orthodox, despite sometimes missing the friendly people at the small church i used to attend. We all seek the warmth and love of human relationships, and certainly expect it in our parishes.

    Surely much of this feeling of being left out comes because in the evangelical or Protestant churches, you choose the church based on the people in that church and how connected you feel – socially, etc. You CHOOSE a place where you identify with the people in the church, and have a “social” time. You might even join a church because your friends go there.
    In the Orthodox Church, if we are not born Orthodox and naturally part of a family in the parish, we come to it solely for the truth. We do not choose based on any other criteria. So we come from different backgrounds, different parts of town, etc.
    Also, the services themselves are certainly focused on prayer and worship, not socializing/welcoming others.
    Everyone needs this spiritual time.
    And many people are burdened with all they can handle in life.

    I know we are all supposed to be full of love for each other, but maybe “reaching out” is not the only way to express love or is difficult for some people.

    You know, we are all being transformed into the “person God created us to be”, including first of all being transformed into depending completely on God, although we ARE part of the Church, and will somehow all be united together one day.
    I can see the miracle of this transformation in myself. For me, it seems it happens slowly and only now am I able to start really feeling a part of the parish.
    This didn’t happen in 9 months.

    Some ideas:
    Of course, #1 – pray about it. Pray, Pray, Pray.

    Talk to your priest or spiritual father.

    It helps to find one or two people in the parish that you feel close to. And then over time, things will happen that will bring you closer to another person, then another.

    Some Orthodox don’t seem to care about socializing with others or with people they don’t know, but then when you say hello to them every now and then, you realize just that creates a small bond which grows. They might surprise you and say “hi” to you first sometime. And you see that they are truly loving people, while you might have thought there were unfriendly.

    Also eventually something will come up involving someone you don’t know very well, and this will give you a chance to talk to that person sincerely, even for a moment, and that will begin a sincere acquaintanceship. Perhaps they or one of their friends/family members is on the prayer list.

    In our day, we all have many obligations, sometimes to where we barely fit everything in. **Parishes used to be comprised of people who lived right in that neighborhood or village, knew each other that way, but that is no longer the case.
    So that is a big challenge. People commute from across town sometimes.

    If you have sit-down lunches or dinners, sit at a table with people you don’t know and begin a conversation.

    Well, I hope this helps. And know that 9 months – i think that’s what you wrote – is somehow not very long. Keep coming. Keep going to as many services as you can. You will be considered part of the parish by others even if you are not yet baptized/chrismated. There are a couple of people in our parish who have been coming for a couple of years and aren’t baptized yet, but they are part of our family since they come all the time.
    You could also ask to be on the prayer list (not specifying the reason)

    Christ Is Risen!

    With Love in Christ,
    Maria

  11. Michael,
    as nice as the lunches and the communal activities are, there is no comparison to the more ecclesiastical three highlights of personal time with God, Divine liturgy (including the communal, mutual prayer aspect) and Synaxis (a rarity outside of monasteries nowadays.
    Your question is very very good.
    The time with God alone in stillness (especially dedicated-to-God-stillness-at-night) is the fuel without which the engine cannot really run.
    It’s when God becomes my God, when he reveals Himself to me, one cannot do without this time.
    The times of interaction and hustle and bustle with our fellow brothers and sisters are the times when we prove that the first commandment we acquired during the dedicated-to-God-stillness-at-night (or any other convenient personalised time) is true -through our instinctive behaviour pouring out ‘coloured’ by it, and therefore finding power and discernment for the second commandment.

  12. Michael, Lent and Pascha are times of work. Even rejoicing. I remarked to my brother Pascha morning that the discipline of thanksgiving is hard work.

    Part of the effort you felt was not yours alone. We bear one another’s burdens. That is part of the Cross of living a life of communion.

    It can make our own burdens lighter but only to allow us to help others–often in unseen ways.

    My brother is an Orthodox priest who had been a priest prior to being received in the Church. He remarked to me about a year after his reception that celebrating the Divine Liturgy as a canonical Orthodox priest was a lot more work.

    I would suggest, as others have as well, that you are a lot more connected than you realize.

    The only way to maintain is the alone time with God.

    May God continue to bless your path.

  13. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you so much Dino, I felt this way but was a bit confused with all the activities lately.
    Thank you too Maria, your advise concerning getting involved by helping is very good.

    By the way Dino, I finished St Silouan the Athonite (as if St Silouan could EVER be finished, O’ Lord may I never forget what I’ve learned) I just started Archimandrite Aimilianos; “the way of the Spirit”.

    Right out the gate in chapter 1 he writes;

    “When the soul feels this condition of rejection and exile, that its been cast off and thrown aside – and this includes a soul that men may praise or flatter, and even one with a degree of purity, chastity, spiritual qualities, lofty aspirations, and inclinations for the divine – when such a soul, I say, finally understands that’s its been discarded, that it needs to find its place in history and in the common body of the church, then it can say; “I’ll go and seek my true home.”

    “The spiritual life begins with a feeling of exile, of banishment, of an obstacle in our path, and with the desire to cease being an object that has been discarded and cast aside. And such a desire is perfectly natural; when you see something that is fallen, or been dropped, it’s natural to want to pick it up and put it back in its place.”

    When the soul acquires this feeling of nakedness and says “I am naked, I must clothe myself” then it has the possibility to feel the need for repentance, the need to be properly clothed.”

    Glory to God, Christ has risen!

  14. Thank you so much Michael Bauman! By the way, who is your patron saint Michael? I’m still looking.

  15. Dino, could you describe “synaxis” for those unacquainted. There isn’t usually a counterpart in parish life, is there?

  16. Synaxis as in a gathering of the body of the Church outside of Church services – usually around a gifted leader, (spiritual Father) after services. It’s often done after the Liturgy or the Vespers in a nearby room to the Church.

  17. Dino, thanks. I see. It is a period of instruction. At my parish, throughout most of the year, we have “adult education” one or two evenings a month for instruction for those interested with one of our priests. It is quite informal, usually centered around a particular topic (the next one later this month will concern “the Holy Mysteries”, for example).

  18. Michael, my saint is St. Michael the Archangel. Don’t over think your choice. I’ve always liked the meaning of Michael: Who (else) is like God?

    My dear wife is named Merry Margaret. Prior to her Chrismation she approached the Bishop (since we are a Cathedral parish) and asked him for some guidance. He said, “Merry Margret, how many saints names do you need?” She settled on Mary, the Theotokos.

    My feast day is the Synaxsis of the Archangels in November. I was Chrismated on the Saturday before the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women.

  19. Father,
    He is risen indeed! Having just returned from Easter in Greece and seeing the Synaxis embedded in some parishes (in the image of the monastic ones) I feel sorry for those parishes that lack this.
    Seeing and hearing one of the greatest Father Confessors living amongst us do one (right in the heart of Athens – albeit in an athonite metochion) daily made me wish I moved back for that reason alone…

  20. Hi Father, I am responding to this a few days late, but just found this today. I hope that Michael the catechumen, who is feeling left out, gets this message….

    a couple of thoughts:

    1) part of the difficulty that you are having is related to your (our) age. I moved to a little town in Iowa for work about four years ago, in my mid 50s. People are nice, but, many have extended families here, and I do not. Moreover, much of the social life revolves around kids, their sports and school activities, and so on. Being 58, I don’t have kids in school, so don’t have that connection. Another big connection that people have is church; most people are Dutch Reformed with a smattering of other faiths. The Orthodox church in town is small, and again, largely families with kids or grandkids, or college students. The reality is, in our 50s, we don’t make friends as readily as we did in our 20s, everyone’s life is more set, and a move to a new community (church community or geographical community) is going to be harder.

    Having said that: the best way to feel at home is to figure out something that you can do, some ministry to participate in. That becomes your little group, your surrogate family that you are “tight” with, and that in turn gives you your place as a member within the larger parish and within the body of Christ. Examples for me have been being on staff at summer camp, helping at the church’s fundraising festivals, chanting. The chanting in particular has been helpful, I have an automatic niche at a new parish. My wife bakes and has taken over being in charge of the pastries at a parish Greek festival; in our Iowa Greek church she talks with her peers about recipes and logistics of festivals, so has a little peer group there. Sponsoring a coffee hour is another way to meet people, and if you do it during a fasting season, you will be VERY appreciated by those for whom a Lenten coffee hour is a challenge (hint: there are recipe books!). You can think of other examples relevant to your parish and your own skill set.

    2) Many “either or”s are actually “both and”s for Orthodox. Our spiritual experiences during prayer, or indeed prayerfully out in the woods, complement our communal spiritual experiences, and visa versa. I have had striking experiences of both kinds. Think of the communal experience as complementary to the individual experience; it’s not one or the other, but both!

    3) There is often a post Paschal letdown, when one has been building up to the Resurrection service all Lent and especially all Holy Week. I really appreciate those parishes that have some sort of meal or celebration after the Resurrection service. In our case, here in Iowa, the Greek church where I chant, 40 miles away, no longer has a dinner after the Resurrection. We have ended up chanting at the Greek church, then stopping at the local OCA church for the party!

    Of course, we have the big family celebration the following day at my sister’s, some hours away. As you get to know people, you might get an invitation, or you might get to know who else doesn’t have anyplace to go on Pascha, and maybe organize a celebration for those people.

    3) I also have learned from the monks that providing a service trumps going to services. I have been asked to go help in the kitchen while services were going on at larger monasteries; I have missed Vespers, with the blessing of the abbot, to take care of a monk’s medical needs in a smaller monastery. That “bearing of one another’s burdens” is what makes community. Any way to plug in to that will help one feel at home in the community.

    4) Definitely, Michael the Archangel for your patron Saint!!! Who better?

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