Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Pascha of the Lord

Some random thoughts on this Feast of feasts in my parish.

1) The Byzantine Men's Choir really did a great service to the church today chanting Odes 3, 5, 7 and 9 as well as the Ainoi and Paschal Stichera. There are still a lot of things to iron out (blending, dynamics, intonation, pitches, enunciation and breathing) but it was a glorious first effort. I'm very privileged to be a part of this fine group of outstanding musicians who wish to enhance the state of Byzantine music not only in our parish but for the Orthodox churches who still do use it or are trying to reintegrate back into common practice (e.g. Antiochian and Greek).

2) One of the Paschal verses from Psalm 67 says "Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered." God must have had some enemies at the Orthros this morning because after we processed outside to read the Gospel, chant the first "Christ is Risen" of this Paschal year and reenter the church, I notice that our ranks had thinned a little. It wasn't a lot but it was noticeable. The church was packed for people to light their candle during "Dhefte lavete phos" (Come take light) with no open seats in sight, but for the rest of the Orthros proceeding into the Divine Liturgy, I saw some empty spaces. I hope it wasn't the chanting that scared them off!

3) The Gospel read at Matins is from the end of St. Mark which ends with the women being afraid. Many have lamented that this should be the Orthros Gospel and should be replaced with something from Matthew or Luke or John instead that has more joy. But this is completely appropriate. We should be in a state of fear. Our Lord has just been crucified and buried and harrowed Hades. Those things should be frightening because they should never have happened. But such is the God we have, a God who has ALWAYS gone to great extraordinary means to recall His chosen people to Himself. That should inspire us with fear. At the same time, immediately after reading this Gospel, the Priest chants the first "Christ is Risen" alleviating our fear and changing it into joy just like it did for the women and the Disciples.

4) We really need to get a new translation of St. John Chrysostom's Homily for Pascha morning. I don't know where it comes from, but the translation I have heard on Sunday mornings for years is fraught with so many vocabulary errors (some of which are understandable considering how the Greek cannot be rendered into English on a 1:1 basis). Some of the word plays and the natural rhetorical flow are compromised. There's got to be a better way to translate it faithfully while retaining those features. Of course, it would be better if it were just read in Greek, but I know I'm not going to win that battle.

5) Speaking of Greek, I actually got to sneak some in there. I'm sorry, but the Byzantine chant just flows so much more naturally with the Greek words than English. English has too many muted and liquid consonants and so many harsh sounding consonant clusters that not only cause delays in the music (e.g. the "rect" in Resurrection) and just sound harsh. Again, a battle I'm not going to win.

6) We do our vigil in the morning at 5:30 beginning with the Pannychis (Midnight Office). I really wish we would start at 11:00 on Saturday evening or at midnight (like every other Orthodox church does). I think we could get a bigger crowd and even more kids. I think the total number of kids was maybe 15 or so (we have lots more) and 5:30 is too early in the morning. What kid doesn't want the opportunity to stay up late? And if this time does keep kids away what kind of message are we sending?

7) Is it just me or does anyone else especially a let down after the Liturgy is done? I've been waiting for 8 weeks now, fasting, praying and preparing for our Lord's resurrection and finally it has arrived and this morning was joyous as it should be. But it has come and gone so fast. I know we still celebrate the feast for 40 days but I wonder if "Christ is Risen" will start to sound hollow by next Saturday evening. I already miss my Triodion.


  1. If "Christ is Risen" ever begins to sound hollow, let alone by next Saturday, it will mean something is quite wrong, wrong enough to consult your spiritual father about.

    You can always fast (except this week) and pray and prepare for the Resurrection. So what's to miss?

    1. I hope it doesn't come to that, Anastasia. Maybe I'm worried for nothing.

      But what's to miss? Triodion and Holy Week and Pascha. I know we replicate Pascha in minature form on Sundays throughout the year, but there's still only one Pascha.