Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!
Christ is Risen!
He is truly Risen!
A holy kiss of this wonderous day to you all!
Unfortunately, I didn't get to sing Hail Thee Festival Day today. But apart from that, today was beyond amazing. Lest I forget it in the week of upcoming exams,* I'm going to try to record a bit of it here.
(Note: if you wish to read further, be aware that this post is quite slanted in the direction of the author's own opinion without any attempt at objectivity whatsoever.)
Last night I cast myself upon my bed having savored the first morsels of Easter munchables following an high Anglican Vigil and High Mass and having made more preparations for my feast today. (Did I mention that I was cooking in the kitchen from basically 7:30am to 5pm on Saturday?) I awoke at 5:15am, planning to mop the kitchen floor, take the chilled ham out of the freezer (which isn't really freezing), set out silverware, and sundry other minor dinner details. Instead I went back to bed for a scanty 15 minutes, before rising, dressing, grooming, and attending to ham & Co. Of course, I didn't have time to mop the floor.
I wore the same floral frock I have donned for the last 4 or 5 Easters - the one with with blue and purple flowers and a large, lace edged collar. Not exactly the warmest thing to wear for a freezing walk in the gray dawn, but I did sacrifice dress shoes for my dress boots (which are becoming very undressish now that I have walked in them for approximately an hour a day on hard concrete or salty slush since purchasing them.) Samantha and I set out at 6:20am for the Lutheran church I have been attending since my arrival here. The cold drove us to quite rapid speeds, and I think we broke my record for transit time to church - 25 minutes for what usually takes 30-40min.
Sunrise service was sparsely attended, unfortunately, but we sang four hymns (why couldn't we have sung more?) during the course of the service, used the whole of Divine Service Setting I (singing most parts = thumbs up), partook Eucharist (Praise be to Christ!), and I managed not cross myself too conspicuously (Why do I feel so self-conscious doing it in this church and not selfconscious at all in the other churches?). At the end of the service, the pastor called out from the back of the church, "He is Risen!" one last time. We responded, "He is Risen indeed!" -- At which he called out to us, "Good Job!" :P
Samantha and I betook ourselves to the basement and wolfed (in 15 min.) an excellent breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, and coffee/hot chocolate (I skipped the caffeine for the fake chocolate). Then we high-tailed it out of there for the college, discussing the Blessed Virgin Mary and Other Assorted Saints (if you can abreviate BVM, why not OAS?) on the way. Samantha and I made it to the college to find Zack already there (you see, the man was our ride to his confirmation) donning confirmatory garb. I slipped the ham into the oven, remembering to turn the thing on, just in time to hop into the little blue car of Zack with Emily, Janice, and Samantha. (I wondered if Zach accompanied to his confirmation by four females might give the hens of the congregation cause to cackle. Apparently, the hens were ok, but why must all clergy be match-minded?)
We arrived a bit early (thank goodness! I was feeling quite, quite, quite ill [someone please teach me how to fast the Thurs-Fri-Sat without killing myself when I start to Pascally feast] but after a few minutes, I got over it) and took refuge beneath the earth - i.e. the basement - while the Matins above finished. I'm pretty sure that the Cathedral of the Annunciation could be the world's tiniest cathedral; it's at least in for the running. We packed the place full. The service was nifty, nice and liturgical. The biship was beaming, ruddily decked and toweringly hatted. The incense was strong, pervasive and cloudlike. Processions, liturgy, and curly bishop sticks are happy things. Zach sat in the front row (with his family) while the rest of us Augushteinians sat about 3/4 of the way from the front - which was still very close, distance-wise. Professor Tingley, his wife, and his two beautiful little daughters occupied the pew in front of us.
I liked the "Bish" (as Zach refers to him) a lot. What's not to like in full vestments and a high red hat which snaps open like a foldable laundry basket? I liked him even more when he compared the Holy Spirit to a wireless router. It sounds crazy, but the analogy totally worked - You can't see or explain how the Holy Spirit brings Christ to you, but He does. And making Zack explain the origins of the words "prevent" and "confirm" in Latin was brilliant. So the chap got confirmed, oiled, and blessed. (Dr.) Tingley stood up with him and was beaming that shy but very proud and happy Tingley sort of half smile. Of course, I didn't take the Eucharist, but I still opted for a blessing.
I actually really miss the communion blessing. I've almost been tempted in the past to ask my dear Pasto's for the blessing instead of the Sacrament, but I really want the Sacrament too.
After service, we took pictures of Zack and the Bishop; Zack, the Bish, the family; Zack, the Bish and Sponser/Standing-up-with-him-people (I don't remember what they're called). Yes, I got some pictures too. After all, I need a few un-nutty Zack pictures and how could I pass up snapping a photo of a real, live, uncaged Bishop? Then I ate food - confirmation refreshments - talked to other students, talked to Zack's family, talked to Zack's bishop who is a perfect mix of the corny and the ecclesiastic (He's Slightly Cwirlesque). Then we overloaded Zack's car by adding in Joel - who had also made it to the confirmation via another ride. On the way back, a strange golden onion-topped something piqued our curiousity so we pursuaded Zack to divert our route by it. We stopped so Joel could go up to it and read the label. He had to jump right through the hedge; he couldn't go around by the sidewalk. :P It turned out to be a ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) and we spent the rest of the ride home discussing this phenomenon and noting police cars apparently watching tiger-flag waving protesters.
On returning home, I rescued the overflowing ham juice from the ham, basted and put the ham back in the oven, and devoted myself to completing dinner prep. I'll spare you, dear reader, a step by step commentary - other than that I shooed the boys out of the kitchen - but I must outline the menu:
Honey-Wheat bread and rolls
Mixed Veggies (corn, green beans, peas)
Pineapple, honey(+mustard) glazed ham
Devilled Monks (will discuss below)
Raspberry layered Jello
Lettuce Salad with other luscious toppings
It was A TON of work, but it was absolutely magnificent!
Devilled Monks are my own creation. It came to me that I should gratify Emily's monk obsession by making devilled eggs in the form of Saxon monks. (Heehee!) I boiled the eggs, cut about a fourth inch off the top, and scooped out the yolk. I put the filling back in, pressing it out flat on the top to make a cm margin of yellow around the edges of the egg, and put the cap back on: visualize a yellow tonsure. Then I dipped a toothpick in balsamic vinegar and poked in little dark holes for eyes and smiley mouth. (Emily screamed and hugged me when she saw them: that made the trouble totally worth it.) Pictures might be forthcoming.
Anyway, I laid a nice table - sit down meal with table cloth, ceramic Easter table service, pretty serving bowls, etc. We were expecting 9 people for dinner - one didn't show up, but an extra did. We started late because of delay in arrivals at around 3:15pm; the food had started to cool, but that was ok. All in all we had:
Emily - sort of sub/honorary RA
Samantha - student
Zack - student
Joel - student
Jesse - Orthodox Clingon
Cyril - Eastern Catholic Clingon
Elizabeth - Orthodox Clingon
Reita - Anglican (becoming) Clingon
We ate, and ate, and talked, and sang some hymns, and talked, and then Cyril got up to go to church again, and we kept talking, and then the rest got up to go to church, etc at about 6:30pm.
Then Emily, Samantha and I headed to the chaplaincy (Da Place ov Cyril - hee hee) for Eastern Catholic Agape Vespers. It was lovely! We sang, we were "attentive" to "widom," the rather young priest (English is definitely not his first language, but his accent is beautiful) read/preached a sermon that I'd bet is from Chrysostom, though I'm not certain. It was so, so beautiful. We sang some more wonderful liturgy, got "incensed," and cried "Christ is Risen!" - "He is truly Risen!" responsively. Toward the end of the liturgy, while singing a beautiful resurrection chorus, people began to line up to kiss the icon of Christ. After kissing the icon, they began to greet the priest and each other by kissing each other on each cheek saying "Christ is Risen!" - "He is Truly Risen!"
At first, Emily, Samantha and I stood on the sidelines watching the joyful greetings. Having figured out the chorus, I was singing it with all my heart - "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life." After a few minutes, Harold, our Student Life Director worked his way over to us and greeted me in the same manner - "you can't come and not participate in the greeting." I was glad to receive it. A few others also extended greetings (kisses included in the package.) After about five minutes of this, Rebecca, Harold's wife, joyfully called out to us, "come, come! This isn't for Catholics only! You don't need to kiss the icon, but you must have a blessing and join us in greeting!" I could resist no longer. Sure, I wanted a blessing from the glowing priest; yes, I wanted to rub cheeks with every last person in that room and exclaim, "Christ is Risen!" - "He is Truly Risen!" a billion times! It was awesome!
After it was all over, Harold invited us to a Ukrainian Easter Party. "Hey, why not?" thought I. Oh, my goodness! Do Ukrainians know how to feast! There was enough rich pastries and cheeses and meat (especially pork sausages) to sink a battleship. And I have no idea how they fit so many people into that tiny little house. There were at least 10 families - kids included, plus single students. I didn't do much talking - watching Ukrainian Catholic culture keep Easter feast was pretty fascinating. Yes, there was the unavoidable beer keg, wine, and other such beverages. I opted for fresh apple cider. The trick to amusing one'self at parties where one is unfamiliar with the culture and ignorant of the language that half of the company speaks is to evesdrop on interesting conversations. Every now and again, several people would call relatives or friends, holding up their cell phones while the entire company sang rousing Easter hymns in Ukrainian (I think that's what it was) or English.
And now I'm home again, terribly tired out by cooking and feasting and singing. Tomorrow is my last day to study for exams and I haven't even begun. Yet, the Feast of Easter merits a break from academic pursuits. I don't regret it.
I'm especially glad that my dinner turned out so well. I've been planning it for some time. I was told by my guests that if I ever want to catch a husband, all I need to do is give the man that ham. Nice try boys. And Zack and Joel plotted to kidnap me to feed them and Emily to entertain them. :D It's nice to know that I can actually plan a feast and pull it off well. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment - a feeling like I've mastered something important - and it satisfies my feminine impulse to feed and nurture.
But I've a feeling I'll be eating leftover donuts for the next few days...
*Professor Bloedow gleefully explained that our upcoming αγων (test, contest) is the root of the English word "agony." Thanks Dr. Bloedow.