>Christ Has Risen and the Women Dance With Joy!

>Christ is Risen! Today is Pascha for Orthodox Christians all over the world… including my brothers and sisters here at St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis, where the celebration is ongoing with today’s “Agape Vespers,” egg hunt and picnic. But let’s back up to yesterday:

Holy Saturday afternoon brought a heightening festive spirit to the kitchen at St. John where a few of the women in the choir gathered to practice new music and “help” the others who were preparing the Easter Soup. Many thanks especially to Kim and Mindy, my main cooks… but also to Christine, for squeezing all the lemons!

Chopping green onions, cilantro and parsley… squeezing lemons… browning the ground lamb… sautéing the spices… simmering the soup…

All the while enjoying a little wine (as is allowed on Holy Saturday) and the feeling of being inside a multi-tasking spiritual organism… others were decorating the nave and fellowship hall with flowers for the feast, while others still were upstairs reading scriptures during the vigil.

And finally, at 11 p.m., we gathered to begin the Feast of Feasts. It was raining, so we weren’t able to do an outdoor procession this year, but that didn’t dampen our joy. At. All.

One of my favorite hymns of Pasch says it all:

Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered!
A sacred Pascha today hath been shown unto us:
a Pascha new and holy,
a Pascha mystical,
a Pascha all venerable,
a Pascha that is Christ the Redeemer;
a Pascha immaculate, a great Pascha;
a Pascha of the faithful;
a Pascha that hath opened the gates of Paradise unto us;
a Pascha that doth sanctify all the faithful.

As smoke vanisheth so let them vanish!
Come from the vision, O ye women, bearers of good tidings, and say ye unto Sion:
receive from us the good tidings of the Resurrection of Christ; adorn thyself, exult, and rejoice, O Jerusalem, for thou hast seen Christ the King come forth from the tomb like a bridegroom in procession.

So let sinners perish at the presence of God and let the righteous be glad!
The myrrh-bearing women in the deep dawn stood before the tomb of the Giver of life; they found an angel sitting upon the stone, and he, speaking to them, said thus: Why seek ye the living among the dead? Why mourn ye the incorruptible amid corruption?
Go, proclaim unto His disciples.
This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad therein!

Pascha the beautiful, Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha, the Pascha all-venerable hath dawned upon us. , with joy let us embrace one another. O Pascha! Ransom from sorrow, for from the tomb today, as from a bridal chamber hath Christ shone forth, and hath filled the women with joy, saying: proclaim unto the apostles.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Both now and
ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

It is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant for the feast, and let us embrace one another. Let us say: Brethren, even to them that hate us, let us forgive all things on the Resurrection, and thus let us cry out:

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

I was missing my children… I think this might be the first year that none of my three grown kids were able to come home for Pascha, so I was especially clingy to my 6-year-old Goddaughter, Sophie, who obliged with lots of hugs and smiles all weekend.

And this amazing card she drew for my husband me. Look at the depths of spiritual symbols in her art work… souls raising from the dead… a spiral which represents God’s wisdom and the angels… the heart at the center of the cross, because without love sacrifice is meaningless…
After sleeping from 3:30 – 9:30 a.m., we joined Sophie’s family for a morning brunch, and again, it was Sophie who warmed my spirit, along with her little sister, Isabelle, by joining me in some joyful Middle Eastern dancing by their pool house… (music and photography by their father)…

So, I’ll leave you with these images…

Because, even as a writer, I still agree,

That a picture is worth a thousand words.

(Nawar did a video with the music, but I didn’t ask for it to download here, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Here’s a hint: when it comes to moving our hips, it’s in the genes. As in Sophie and Isabelle’s genes. I’m from Mississippi, remember? But hey—I do the best I can.)
Christ hath shown forth and filled the women with joy!
What a beautiful and mystical Pascha!

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