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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Great Saturday

On Great Saturday morning, I went to the morning liturgy. I had arranged to meet the Dr. William H. M. and his wife out there and then follow them back to their house.

I went to Holy Transfiguration, not really knowing what to expect. The Liturgy was pretty much a normal Divine Liturgy, except that they brought two men into the Church. While the beginning of the Liturgy was going on, the two men were being baptized. After all the candles were lit (which I helped with! {excited grin}), and the Gospel antiphons had been sung, the doors to the church were thrown open and Father Joseph and a number of acolytes and people in procession came in with the two Neophytes. The Neophytes and their sponsors (one of whom was Dr. M.) stood up at the front of the church for the Gospel, the homily, and the rest of Mass. This was the first Mass that they had been allowed to attend. When they first became Catechumens, they were never allowed to stay past a certain part of the Mass -- in fact, they were dismissed with the words: "All Catechumens depart, all Catechumens depart, let no Catechumen remain." After which "The doors, the doors!" were closed to them while the Great Mysteries of the Liturgy were going on. This time, "The doors, the doors!" were closed, but they remained inside.

Ahhh, the symbolism... I love the East!!! :-D

After the Liturgy, I realized that it was April 15th, and I had to hit "send" on my taxes. I had them prepared for a few days (really!), but I hadn't e-filed them yet.

Remind me to never e-file state taxes. $19.99 through turbo tax online. Grr...

After this, I wanted to get a suit for Easter and for home. I got a charcoal, blue-and-white pinstripe, two-button, which was configured for me while I was there. (I've still got the techie side of me -- what would it be? Hemmed? Suspender-button-sewn-on'ed? Whatever you call it, it as extremely quick service! I was really amazed! Go, Men's Wearhouse!

After getting out of there, I went to the apartment, and relaxed for a bit. I took a shower and got ready to go to Front Royal. I called the good Dr. M. and family to let him know my E.T.A., and he said that they'd be ready. At this point, I was talking to Mrs. M., who had been the one to ask me about taking their girls to Holy Transfiguration. She informed me that I told her that I had developed a small dilemma. I was taking not just Emma, but also Sarah. Including the three of us plus the two M. girls, my Acura would not be big enough for the five of us. I felt weird asking, but I knew that they had a van, so I asked if it was possible to borrow that. We concluded that it was all right.

I was informed shortly thereafter that the M. girls were taking one of their friends with them. And shortly after that, Emily G. asked if she could go. Thus the seven passenger van was filled, and I took over Sabbatino's role of being the official "take girls to Holy Transfiguration" person, at least for one night...

I got to Front Royal about 6:30. I spent some time at Dane's, then headed over to Dr. M.'s house. I arrived at his place about 7:45 or so, half-expecting to find them waiting on the doorstep, drumming their fingers. As it turns out, I was half-wrong. I was invited inside, and Mrs. M. and one of her girls were making food for the Pascha festivities, so Dr. M. and I went out back onto his screened deck, and we sat and chatted for a while.

I finally told him the story about how I did my thesis. He seemed to enjoy the story. After that, we discussed how his classes were going. Listening to him talk made me want to go back to Christendom again. His classes were so awesome!

Finally, about 8:30 or so, the three girls were ready. They wanted a picture of this momentous occasion, so they joined me on the couch, just as Emma called. There are, somewhere in this world, two pictures of me on the phone surrounded by three women-folk, and a third picture of us, with me playing up the "stud" role, probably rather poorly. My excuse was that I was asked to play the role of "stud" with no time to prepare at all...

We left their house very soon after that. They asked me to stop at an Exxon, so I did, only to discover that they wanted to pick up cigarettes. Now, don't get me wrong: I don't necessarily care that people smoke if they want to smoke. It's their health, their choice, their responsibility -- besides, smoking affects different people different ways. I am usually surprised when women smoke, because it's a thing of mine that ladies do not smoke. I've seen enough women smoke, so it doesn't really bother me that much, but there's something in the back of my mind which still whispers that.

I think what really bothered me the most was that we were on our way to Divine Liturgy and they wanted to smoke on the way. In any event, that seemed to be my overarching thought as we went to pick up Emma, Sarah, and Emily at Christendom.

When we entered the girl's side, I was looking at Blessed Margaret's. There were no lights on, but I figured it was because Emma's room was in the back. I pulled up in front of the dorm, and called her to let her know that I was out front. She said that she was, too, and that I had gone tearing past her. Whoops. They were waiting for me at the rock. {grins sheepishly} I really should have seen them, because they were wearing light clothes, but that's what you get for focusing on the destination. I turned the van around, and, sure enough, there they were. Except now they were standing in the road, to make sure that I'd see them. I raced up to them, in an attempt to scare them (because I'm a jerk like that), but they didn't move in the least. Drat! Foiled again!

On the way into the church, everyone gets a candle. Emma, Sarah, Emily and I sat up in the front to get a good view. Evening liturgy consisted of the Lamentations, a procession, and evening liturgy. The Lamentations remind us that Christ is in the tomb. After this, the priests came out of the sanctuary with their candles lit. From these candles, the congregation lit all of their candles, and then proceeded outside. I held the door open for the congregation. This helped make sure that I would have a great spot to stand and see everything. (The girls stood at the front of the steps about ten feet away from me, so they also had a great view. See? I'm not that selfish!)

After going outside, everyone gathered at the door. The priests, deacons and the acolytes were the only ones left inside, and they came outside at the end of the congregation. Some antiphons were chanted, the Gospel that related the story of the angel telling the women that Christ is risen was read, and then Father Joseph began chanting in Greek:

"Christos anesti ek nekron, thanato thanaton patisas, ke tis en tis mnimasi, zoin charisamenos." ("Χριστος Ανεστη εκ νεκρων, θανατω θανατον πατησας, και τοις εν τοις μνημασι, ζωην χαρισαμενο!" Right, Greek scholars?)

To which the people responded in English,

"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life."

The third response was in Aramaic (right?), which I still can barely pronounce and have most certainly not memorized:

"Al-Masihu qama min bayn ilamwat wa wati-al-mawta Bil-maut, wa wahab al-hayat liladina fil-qu-bour."

Generally, these were sung in the following order throughout Mass: English, then Greek, then Aramaic.

Anyway, back outside the church, Father called upon the tombs to open their doors and release the dead from their grip in obedience to their Lord and Master, Christ. The he then knocked on the doors loudly. This was repeated twice. After the third time, the doors were opened (I held them again!), and the priests, deacons, acolytes, choir, and congregation went inside. I was one of the last people inside. After that, I came up to the front of the church, I hadn't missed much. I did, however, miss the one thing that I was hoping to see. It's such a simple thing, but it's really awesome! When you walk back into the church, all the hanging candles are swinging, symbolic of the earthquake at the Resurrection. The first time I saw this, I could not help but find my place, while remaining awe-struck. It seems like such a simple thing, and most of you are probably asking, "Why in the world would swinging candles cause so much awe?" I can't explain it any better than the fact that the first time you see it, the symbolism really hits home. Couple this with the sadness of the Holy Friday burial liturgy, and it really is an amazing experience...

From here on, Liturgy was almost as normal, except the chant that I mentioned above was repeated over and over again through Mass. After the Gospel, Father gave the Paschal homily. This can be found on http://www.orthodoxwiki.org/Paschal_Homily Trust me, it's well worth the read, but it's even better listening to Father Joseph give it. The one that I heard on Pascha was modified slightly from the original, but the content is identical.

At the end of the Liturgy, I helped them move the chairs out of the church and into the dining hall for the celebration immediately following. After getting a couple things to eat, I went to help out Sabbatino and Co. with their service. I ended up refilling/replacing a lot of the food trays, and then took over washing the dishes for Christine.

It was about 01:30-02:00AM when we left. I drove us back to Front Royal with some lively mariachi music to keep me awake. I dropped Emily, Sarah, and Emma off at Christendom, drove the M. girls back to their house, and then spent the night at Eric's place. It was 03:00AM when I crashed. I realized in some panic that I did not have my cell phone on me at that point, and to go back to Dr. M's house was not ideal. I asked Mike P. to set an alarm to get up at 06:00 to get to Old St. Mary's.

Cool.

Zzzzzzzzzzz...................
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