Sunday, April 27, 2003

At midnight the congregation walks slowly around the darkened Church, candles in hand, singing softly. Outside the doors of the sanctuary, the Gospel is read. Father knocks loudly on the closed doors; "Lift up your gates that the King of Glory may come in!" The doors open to a flood of light, flowers, and candles, as we proclaim, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life!" We stand shoulder to shoulder as the choir and chanter sing, proclaiming the joyful paradoxes of the feast. At the end of matins, before the start of the liturgy that will take us past two in the morning, we hear the words of St. John Chrysostom, John the Golden-tongued, inviting all to join in the joy of the day:

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him now receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.


Monday, April 21, 2003

We Orthodox will celebrate Pascha, the great feast of the resurrection, a week later than our western brethren this year due to differences in calendar calculations. The Lenten fast continues for a few more days, but even now preparations and foreshadowings of the joy of the coming feast appear. This past Saturday was the commemoration of the raising of Lazarus, and, as if to join in the foretaste of the Resurrection, the redbuds and dogwoods burst into blossom at the foot of the mountain. Here is a photo from this Sunday of three of our guard llamas, keeping watch in the midst of it all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I had not intended to take a twelve day break from the weblog, but time passes quickly in Spring. Every day the scene outside changes, green where there was brown, leaves where there were skeletal branches. Too fast to capture in a daily slice of words. I can understand why the haiku poets loved this season. Things will not stop in their rush to sit for a full portrait, but a quick seventeen syllable sketch is just barely possible.

Last week it rained. Not just for one day. The whole week it rained, cold and continuos showers. Down at the sheep barn there was mud above the ankles, sometimes up to the boot top, grabbing and holding on like an insistent drunk at a party -- "Have you heard the one about . . .?" The joke, it seems, was a good one, as the Lenten grey and gloom of the rain has given way to this week's riot of sunlit green.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Morning 4-02-03

Our detour back into winter is over. Temperatures yesterday reached into the 70's, with the same expected today. The pines, green all winter, are now getting company, as gray branches start to bud and leaf on the lower hills. This morning, the sound of birds.

First it sends a gentle breeze
to announce the news;
next it orders twittering birds
to explain the reason

Po Chu-i (Trans. Jonathan Chaves)