from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

It is the day of resurrection 

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If you are surprised to read those words today, one week after you have perhaps celebrated Easter, don’t be. For several hundred million Eastern Christians, today is Pascha, the Feast of Feasts. Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Czech, Antiochian, Polish, Ukrainian, Greek, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, Nestorian and more .. even those like my Mayflower descendent wife, Leaves on the Current.

In honor of this day, I will offer a few textual selections for the day. Read and learn about the ancient riches of the Christian East.

It is the day of resurrection ! Let us be illumined for the feast! Pascha! The Pascha of the Lord! From death unto life, and from earth unto heaven has Christ our God led us! Singing the song of victory: Christ is risen from the dead!

The above is from the first ode of the Paschal Canon. The service will have begun with prayers of Nocturnes, including Psalm 50/51 (the Orthodox use the numbering of the Septuagint), with its own canon, a hymn with 9 stanzas, each with an ode and a series of other lines, these separate by a refrain of “Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee.” There are references to various biblical passages seen as foreshadowing resurrection, the central theme of the feast. The canon is completed, there are additional prayers, including a troparion (hymn) which describes the descent into Hell, the raising of the dead.

But all this is anticipation. In the Russian practice, which my wife’s very American (and English language) church follows, the church then goes into darkness and people wait. At midnight a hymn starts with the clergy behind the iconostasis, the big icon screen that separates the altar from the nave. The hymn is repeated over and over as candles are lit, and the light passed from person to person. The clergy, now dressed in Paschal white, and the people exit the church, and weather allowing process around it three times, all while singing:
Thy Resurrection oh Christ our savior, the Angels in Heaven sing, Enable us one earth, to glorify thee with purity of heart.

While the procession is occurring, all the alter coverings - which had been dark, are replaced with blinding white drapery, all the lights are turned on inside. The procession comes to the front of the church, the door is knocked on three times, and the Easter celebration begins. Throughout the Matins service and following liturgy one will constantly hear the glorious affirmation of Christian faith, in one of the oldest forms of what we know as a call and response. The priest or deacon will cry
Christ is Risen!
and the response, in full voice by all assembled will be given
Indeed He is risen!

It will be given in as many languages as are appropriate to the Congregation, quite often Greek, Slavonic (the Russian and Bulgarian liturgical language), Romanian and Arabic being added to the English, but other languages may also be heard.

The entire Matins is glorification -- with incense, with music, with shouts of joy, with language striving to express the understanding of the miracle which inspires Christian faith. The language is of absolute affirmation, of unbridled joy, of amazement.

I gave above the first Ode of the Canon of the Resurrection. Let me offer a few more selections from that Canon. In the Kontakion (a special hymn for the occasion recited in the stanza in which the 6th Ode is sung) we sing and/or hear:
Thou didst descend into the tomb, O Immortal, Thou didst destroy the power of death. In victory didst Thou arise, O Christ God, proclaiming “Rejoice“ to the myrrhbearing women, granting peace to Thy apostles, and bestowing resurrection on the fallen.

Or the 8th ode:
This is the chosen and holy day, first of sabbaths, king and lord of days, the feast of feasts, holy day of holy days. On this day we bless Christ forevermore.

The focus of the 9th ode of canons is the Mother of God, referred to in Orthodox Christianity as the Theotokos, the god-bearer. In the paschal canon there are twelve separate refrains, and we have the repetition of a specific kind hymn, the Irmos, which for this feast reads
Shine! Shine! O new Jerusalem! The glory of the Lord has shone on you. Exult now and be glad, O Zion. Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos, in the resurrection of your Son.

In the 14 years when I was an Orthodox Christian, I directed the choir for this service on multiple occasions, and sung in the choir for the rest. From the start of the Nocturnes until the completion of the Divine Liturgy (equivalent of the Mass) with everyone coming up for communion is easily a period of three hours or even more. But there is a clear demarcation, at the end of Matins. There are series of paschal verses, which will be repeated throughout the Paschal season. Someone will intone the beginning
Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered. Let those who hate Him flee from before His Face.

There are five sections sung by the choir after the lines of the intonation. Let me offer the first:
Today, a sacred Pascha is revealed to us,
A new and holy Pascha,
A mystical Pascha.
A Pascha worthy of veneration,
A Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer.
A blameless Pascha,
A great Pascha,
A Pascha of the faithful,
A Pascha which has opened for us the gates of Paradise,
A Pascha which sanctifies all the faithful.

The words cannot convey the depth of understanding to which they point, this grasp of the mystery that for the Christian believer has transformed the universe.

But this would be incomplete, because the believer is also supposed to be transformed. And thus in the final response the choir sings
This is the day of resurrection.
Let us be illumined by the feast.
Let us embrace each other.
Let uis call “Brothers” even those that hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection, and so let us cry:
Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life (this is sung 3 times)>

This is IMMEDIATELY followed by one of the most famous sermons ever preached, by John Chrysostom (the 2nd is not a name but a title -- golden-mouthed - a title he earned for his eloquence). One of the great theological figures of the 4th Century ( he lived from 347 to 407), there are things about him which one could criticize. But this sermon is magnficent, and continues with the magnanimity we have just seen in the Paschal verses, and proclaims the triumph of the resurrection. Here is that sermon:

Whosoever is a devout lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful bright Festival.  And whosoever is a grateful servant, let him rejoice and enter into the joy of his Lord.  And if any be weary with fasting, let him now receive his penny. 

If any have toiled from the first hour, let him receive his due reward.  If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join the Feast.  And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.  And if any have delayed to the ninth hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay; for the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.  He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour as well as to him that toiled from the first.

Yea, to this one he gives, and upon that one he bestows.  He accepts works, as He greets the endeavor.  The deed he honors and the intention he commands.

Let all then enter into the joy of our Lord.  You first and last receiving alike your reward; you rich and poor, rejoice together.  You sober and you slothful, celebrate the day.  You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today; for the Table is richly laden.  Fare royally on it.  The calf is a fatted one.  Let no one go away hungry.  Partake you all of the cup of faith.  Enjoy you all the riches of His goodness.  Let no one grieve at his poverty; for the universal Kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.  Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Saviour has set us free.  He has destroyed it by enduring it.  He spoiled Hades when he decended thereto.  He vexed it even as it tasted of His flesh.  Isaiah foretold this when he cried, “Thou, O Hades, has been vexed by encountering Him below.”

It is vexed; for it is even done away with.  It is vexed; for it is made a mockery.  It is vexed; for it is destroyed.  It is vexed; for it is annihilated.  It is vexed; for it is now made captive.  It took a body, and it discovered God.  It took earth, and encountered Heaven.  It took what it saw and was overcome by what it did not see.

“O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?”  Christ is risen, and thou art annihilated.  Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down.  Christ is risen, and the Angels rejoice.  Christ is risen, and life is liberated.  Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of the dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  To Him be glory and power forever and ever.  Amen.

There are many websites that can give you the Paschal greeting and response in different languages. Here is a google search to provide you with a number of choices. I will end this by presenting the offerings of this one. You do not have to be Christian (realistically I am not) and certainly not Orthodox to have a sense of the joy that Eastern Christians feel on this feast, and the passion with which they will greet one and all during the Paschal season. And perhaps if you hear some strange sounds, you will realize that they are not gibberish, but the deepest expression of joy that an Eastern Christian can offer. It will be offered whether you believe or not. It will not be intended as missionary work, or to impose a possibly alien faith on you. It will be offered in fulfillment of the final passage of the Paschal verses and in the spirit of the sermon of John Chrysostom.

Christ is Risen!
Indeed He is risen!
Khrishti unjal!
Vertet unjal!
Khristus anahgrecum!
Alhecum anahgrecum!
Khris-tusaq ung-uixtuq!
Pijii-nuq ung-uixtuq!
Kristos tenestwal!
Bergit tenestwal!
Crist aras!
Crist sodhlice aras!
El Messieh kahm!
Hakken kahm!
Kristos haryav ee merelotz!
Orhnial eh harootyunuh kristosee!
Hristolu unghia!
Daleehira unghia!
Xristosi banuytashtch'ey!
Gheli banuytashtch'ey!
Hristos voskrese!
Vo istina voskrese!
Khrystos uvaskros!
Sapraudy uvaskros!
Helisituosi fuhuole!
Queshi fuhuole!
Christos anesti!
Alithos anesti!
Kristus vstal a mrtvych!
Opravdi vstoupil!
Kristus er opstanden!
I sandhed Han er Opstanden!
(or Sandelig Han er Opstanden!)
Christus is opgestaan!
Ja, hij is waarlijk opgestaan!
Christos tensiou!
Bahake tensiou!
Kristo levigis!
Vere levigis!
Kristus on oolestoosunt!
Toayestee on oolestoosunt!
Christos t'ensah em' muhtan!
Exai' ab-her eokala!
Kristus nousi kuolleista!
Totisesti nousi!
Le Christ est ressuscite!
En verite il est ressuscite!
Kriost eirgim!
Kriste ahzdkhah!
Christus ist erstanden!
Er ist wahrhaftig erstanden!
Christos anesti!
Alithos anesti!
Ua ala hou `o Kristo!
Ua ala `I `o no `oia!
Ha Masheeha houh kam!
A ken kam! (or Be emet quam!)
Kristur er upprisinn!
Hann er vissulega upprisinn!
Kristus telah bangkit!
Benar dia telah bangkit!
Cristo e' risorto!
Veramente e' risorto!
Harisutosu Fukkatsu!
Jitsu ni Fukkatsu!
Kristus sampun wungu!
Saesto panjene ganipun sampun wungu!
Kristo gesso!
Buhar ha sho nay!
Christus resurrexit!
Vere resurrexit!
Kristus ir augsham sales!
Teyasham ir augsham sales vinsch!
Kristo ajukkide!
Amajim ajukkide!
Malayalam (Indian):
Christu uyirthezhunnettu!
Theerchayayum uyirthezhunnettu!
Jesu Kristi ebiliwo!
Ezia o' biliwo!
Kristus er oppstanden!
Han er sannelig oppstanden!
Khristus zmartvikstau!
Zaiste zmartvikstau!
Cristo ressuscitou!
Em verdade ressuscitou!
Cristos a inviat!
Adevarat a inviat!
Khristos voskrese!
Voistinu voskrese!
Satvam upastitaha!
Cristos vaskres!
Vaistinu vaskres!
Kristus vstal zmr'tvych!
Skutoc ne vstal!
Cristo ha resucitado!
En verdad ha resucitado!
Kristo amefufukka!
Kweli Amefufukka!
Christus ar uppstanden!
Han ar verkligen uppstanden!
M'shee ho dkom!
Ha koo qam!
Xristos Kuxwoo-digoot!
Xegaa-kux Kuxwoo-digoot!
Hristos diril-di!
Hakikaten diril-di!
Kristo ajukkide!
Kweli ajukkide!
Khristos voskres!
Voistinu voskres!
Atgyfododd Crist!
Atgyfododd yn wir!
Xris-tusaq Ung-uixtuq!
Iluumun Ung-uixtuq!
Ukristu uvukile!
Uvukile kuphela!
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