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Pascha, Seen Throught The Eyes Of A Child
By Karen Verderber

Once upon a time, a little girl was brought to the Orthodox Church every Sunday by her mother for worship. The two services were in English and Slavonic, indigenous of the community surrounding the church. Attending Sunday liturgy became the expected norm. When the little girl became five years of age, her mother told her that now she was big enough to stay up late and attend the service her mother most loved called Pascha or Easter, on Saturday at midnight. Preparation in anticipation of the Pascal Divine Liturgy began weeks ago, but on Holy Friday, the little girls's mother said that no television or radio would be allowed because it was a very sad day. Jesus died and was lying in a grave at church. The mood in the child's household was solemn and she saw her mother and grandmother crying throughout the day. That evening she understood why as she and her mother bowed down before the grave three times and then her mother picked her up to kiss the wounds on the shroud of Jesus. There were tears in her mother's eyes.

On Saturday, the child was awakened by the smell of ham and sausage cooking and the welcoming aroma of Easter breads baking in the oven. It was early morning but she noticed how joy had replaced the solemn mood in their home from the previous day. She eagerly joined in the food preparation and was given the very grown-up task of dyeing Easter eggs. The traditional Slavonic foods had been carefully placed in the Easter basket and at 10:30 p.m. sharp, the child and her mother would don their best Easter clothes and wait at the bus stop holding a very heavy basket! Once they arrived at their church, the little girl could see from afar, that there were many, many more baskets aligning the church yard. Her excitement in anticipation of this wondrous evening was beyond words. The church was filled with many strange faces that the child had never seen when they attended church on Sunday. She asked her mother why. Her mother only responded that we should pray for those people and not to worry about why they didn't come on Sunday. As the little girl watched everyone kneel before the grave of Jesus, she breathed in the intoxicating sweet smell of incense mixed with the perfume of early spring Easter lilies and hyacinth plants adorning the altar. The sights and smells that permeated the church on her first Paschal experience would be indelibly printed on her memory forever, bringing feelings of love, promise and comfort. It was perfect!

Suddenly, in the dark stillness of the church as each person held a taper, the choir began to sing. The child asked if there were angels singing in the church tonight. Her mother responded that the angels singing were always here singing, but tonight there were hundreds singing in celebration of Jesus going up to heaven.

Soon all the people processed outside and around the church three times while singing, "Thy Resurrection, O Christ Our Savior, the angels in heaven sing, Enable us on earth to glorify thee in purity of heart." The little girl held tightly to her mother's hand until they re-entered the church. Everything now was bright and joyous and when the priest would shout "Christ is Risen," the people would loudly respond "Indeed He Is Risen," in both English and Slavonic.

After a time, the little girl's eyelids became heavy, but her heart was light, and she fell comfortably asleep before the lengthy service ended. When she awoke, her mother took her to the church yard to witness the blessing of the Easter baskets while the choir sang "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs bestowing life!"

The little girl has never forgotten that first joyous Paschal Liturgy and the many, many more that followed. And now, even after fifty years, her senses are still moved by the sights, sounds and smells she witnessed that morning. The little girl did not realize it then but she will be one of the caretakers of the eternal stream of praise that she had waited and fasted and prayed for all her life. Orthodox Christians before her and after her will say, and sing and chant the same words as she heard that morning. It was her privilege to be a part of this worship and she was blessed to be introduced to it by a believing mother and grandmother.

By now, I'm sure you've guessed - that the little girl was me! The child in me still waits in anticipation of Pascha: with joy and wonder and gratefulness. May the child in you find this same sense of wondor. I wish you too, a Blessed Pascha!

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