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What our Parishioners said about Lent and Pascha
by Multiple

Lynn Betsanes - In my past years, Lent basically meant getting ashes on Ash Wednesday (if I remembered) and not eating meat on Fridays. When Easter came, we hunted for colored eggs and got baskets of candy. We went to church because, yes, Christ did rise from the dead that day. Then it was off to Grandma's for an Italian dinner. I do believe it meant much more to my parents, but somehow the true meaning was never very clear to me until I joined the Orthodox Church. For the first time, I understand that in order to truly celebrate Christ's Resurrection, people must really go inside themselves and examine their lives and be genuinely repentant for their sins. By privately following the guidelines of the Church as best as I can and attending as many services as my schedule allows, I have found, for the first time in my life, the true meaning of Great Lent. This has helped me deepen my care for God and other people. Through my prayers and guidance, when my children grow up and are asked, "What does Great Lent and Pascha mean to you," eggs and candy will be the farthest thing from their minds!

Pearl Homiak -The Orthodox observance of Lent and Pascha is my lifeline. Great Lent brings me back into focus after spending other times of the year eating too much, talking too much, wasting time, and praying too little. I love to go to the Lenten services. The more of these I attend, the more meaningful Lent is to me. As the number of services increase during Holy Week, I feel both strengthened and challenged. I am strengthened by the presence of my fellow believers, more of whom come towards the end of Holy Week. At the same time I am challenged to let go and let God carry me through the joy of Pascha. After Pascha I always miss the intensity of worship that is suddenly over. Yet, God willing, it will come again next year!

Maria Vrame - Each service of Lent and Holy Week has its own beauty and meaningful message. However, the service of the Bridegroom of Holy Week is one that truly forces me to reflect on life, how fragile it is, and how death comes like a thief in the middle of the night. The beautiful hymn, "Behold the Bridegroom," explicitly reminds us to be watchful of our souls so as not to be "given up to death and be shut out of the Kingdom." Likewise, the hymn "Your Bridal Chamber" asks Christ, the Giver of Light, to "illumine my soul and save me so that I may enter therein." The truth that really grips me is the fact that the only thing that is forever is mysoul. As I see death around me, the message of these hymns imparts even more strongly the importance of guarding my soul. As I see the procession with the icon of Christ the Bridegroom baring His marks of suffering, I know He is preparing a marriage feast for us in His Kingdom. I pray, too, with the grace of God, that I may someday enter into His beautiful Kingdom to rejoice at the marriage feast and bask in His Holy Light.

Esther Poulos - The most meaningful Holy Week service is probably Thursday evening, the service of the Holy Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. It reinforces what we already know but do not think about….that our Lord endured humiliation and the worst death imaginable by dying on the cross to save us sinners. John 3:16 summarizes this service so perfectly, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

Luba Johnson - The most meaningful service to me during this Great Lent is the Good Friday service at 3 o'clock PM. It is a solemn moment for me to reflect that I am a sinner and that Christ sacrificed himself for me. I think about the pain and torment that He suffered so that I would be able to receive the precious gift of salvation. This service brings tears to my eyes every year. This is my time to give a special thanks to Christ for dying for me that I may be saved

Barbara Zerlentes - The service on Holy Friday evening is the most meaningful to me. It helps me remember how Christ suffered unbearable pain for us and how God gave his only Son for our salvation. Holy Friday reminds me of His God's tremendous love for us. Just think of it! God did all this just so we could be with Him.

Andrew Lukashonak - Having to choose the most meaningful service of Great Lent/Pascha seems like an impossible task. When thinking of Pascha, most people favor of the festive services that begin at midnight and last late into the morning. But when I look back at my life in the Church, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Liturgy of Holy Saturday. It's a shame that many people don't attend this service. They go (as if magically) directly from the Crucifixion of Christ to the Resurrection of Christ and by so doing, miss an important Christian teaching. Father Alexander Schmemann writes, "In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death that Christ continues to effect triumph." This is a service of vigil, vigil by the tomb of Jesus Christ and if you think about it, our whole life is a life of keeping vigil for Jesus Christ. Christians will face sorrow in the world (in fact they have been promised this) and they will have to pickup and carry their cross, but this must be done with joy because Christ has shown us the way to overcome the world. I urge all of you to give it a try...you won't be disappointed!

Aristea Zekios - My favorite services are from midnight of Pascha to the Ascension. This post-Pascha period is a joyous time when we continually proclaim, "Christ is risen!" I feel so blessed when the Orthodox Church celebrates Pascha for 40 days! Last year this joyous time was even more meaningful to me. My mother was buried 12 days after Pascha. During the funeral service everyone sang, "Christ is risen." Her funeral was not darkened with gloom. Instead the promise of eternal life filled each of us with brightness and hope. What a feeling to know that my mother's new life in the Resurrected Christ was being celebrated. The Alzheimer's disease that had taken its toll on her earthly life could no longer hold her captive. One of my favorite Paschal hymns proclaims, "With Himself he has raised all the dead. Rejoice, all ye people." Indeed Christ's Resurrection is a celebration of life for all of humanity.

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