Christ is risen!

The Resurrection is not canceled

I’ve been asked frequently this month, “Is Pascha going to be canceled because of the quarantine?”

What? No! Even if not a single church gathered to serve the Liturgy, April 19 would still be the center of the Church’s calendar and the rocks would cry out, “Christ is risen!”

Father Deacon James Ferrenburg writes:

Becoming Orthodox 20 years ago was a colossal shift for us – not all at once, mind you, but slowly. One indicator of this was the feast of feasts – Pascha – taking its place on the throne of Holy days (aka holidays) asking Christmas to step down (but certainly not away). How Christmas ever came to trump Easter in the western mind now seems a bit of a mystery to us.

Our family has always immersed ourselves in the times and services of Holy Week and Bright Week. They are nothing less than the hub around which the rest of our year revolves… the rich beauty, majesty, intensity, and joy of it all cannot be relayed to those who have not experienced it. The closest I can come to relaying the massive hole it leaves in our lives being without it, would I suppose be like asking people to try and imagine there being no Christmas. No tree, no Carols, no special TV programs, no extended family gatherings etc.

Dr. Suess’ Grinch tried to steal Christmas by taking away the material, but the community, joining together in celebratory song, manifested Christmas all the same. Contrastingly, in our current calamity, the Grinch is trying to steal Pascha not by taking away the material (that was never the focus to begin with!), but rather by taking away the community itself and our ability to join together in celebratory song.

I am reminded of the hymnography of Holy Saturday. If we shift our mindsets just a bit, I think we can see that there could be no better time for us to participate in Holy Week, Pascha, and Bright Week. This viral Grinch will find just as Hell did…

Today Hades cries out groaning:
“I should not have accepted the man born of Mary.
He came and destroyed my power.
He shattered the gates of brass.
As God, he raised the souls that I had held captive.”
Glory to thy cross and resurrection, O Lord!

Today, Hades cries out groaning:
“My dominion has been shattered.
I received a dead man as one of the dead,
but against him I could not prevail.
From eternity I had ruled the dead,
but behold, he raises all.
Because of him do I perish.”
Glory to thy cross and resurrection, O Lord!

Today, Hades cries out groaning:
“My power has been trampled upon.
The Shepherd is crucified and Adam is raised.
I have been deprived of those whom I ruled.
Those whom I swallowed in my strength I have given up.
He who was crucified has emptied the tombs.
The power of death has been vanquished.”
Glory to thy cross and resurrection, O Lord!

Our faith has seen kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. It has seen plagues come and go. She has been forced, on many occasions under the pagan Romans, the Muslim Turks, or the atheistic communists, to celebrate Pascha secretly underground among the dead and in homes under threat of discovery by neighbors who would readily turn them in. If our faith can bear that and transmit the joy of the feast to future generations, then surely we can bear this minor inconvenience, no?

We are beginning to plan our services – at home – for Holy Week and Pascha. We will not let the astonishingly beautiful hymns go unsung. Bridegroom Matins, Holy Thursday, the Vespers of Entombment, Lamentations, Holy Saturday, Nocturns and Matins of Pascha, the Paschal Liturgy – St. John’s homily will be proclaimed – and so on and so forth throughout Bright Week. Yes, they will all be “reader’s services,” but they will no less shine the Light.

Update: Father James adds that he will gladly share the texts with anyone else who wants to do the same. He plans to post the texts online as printable PDFs; I will update this post when a link is available.

And, until the resurrection: Kalo agona! Good struggle to you!


Printable Reader’s Services are now posted at the Ferrenburgs’ website.

Fr Silouan Thompson