by Priest Andrew Smith
Each year, rain or shine, April or May, Old Calendar or New, the exciting and world changing cry of the Paschal Greeting, “Christ is risen!” ushers joy into all of our lives at the end of our candle-lit processions. As we pour into the church singing the Paschal Troparion, truly, all is filled with light. The next day, at Agape Vespers, though there are often fewer worshippers, God’s saving plan has lost none of its luster as we hear the Gospel proclaimed in many languages.
Then vigil and liturgy for Thomas Sunday come and in many parishes we notice how so few of those who answered “Indeed He is risen!” at the paschal vigil have come to bear witness to Antipascha. This can quickly become a downward spiral that reduces that exuberant shout of joy on the first Sunday (and first day of the new creation) to a tired, hoarse wheeze by the fourth or fifth Sundays of the Pentecostarion, the ‘flowery’ Triodion containing the hymns of the Paschal season.
Anna Rikhter, parishioner of The Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Menlo Park, CA, had other ideas. With the blessing of Fr Andrew Smith, she distributed a list of poems by Russian writers about the feast of Pascha (https://foma.ru/stixotvoreniya-o-pasxe.html) to church school students. Each student wishing to participate chose a poem, committed it to memory, and practiced it after church school on Sundays during Great Lent.
After the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women, at which we were fed and filled by the life-saving Body and Blood of the Resurrected Savior and became one with Him as His body, the Church, we entered the parish hall to break our fast. There, also as one, we were filled with inspiration by the beauty of the poems recited faithfully by the church school children. These words about the Word reminded us of that spiritual joy felt just two weeks prior.
Our young joy-bearers continued their ministry the next Sunday as they recited their poems at the annual Day of the Russian Child at the Russian Center in San Francisco. The event, organized by the Russian Children’s Welfare Society, raises funds to help orphaned and disabled children in Russia. So that our faith may not be left without works, the parish took a collection for support of the Society on April 22nd and 29th and sent it along with our church school kids.
The parishioners at The Nativity of the Holy Virgin wish you all a bright and joyful remainder of your Paschaltide. May your “Christ is risen” be as radiant and joyful on the leavetaking of the Feast of Feasts as it was at the beginning.