XPICTOC ANECTH! Christ is risen!
Today is Orthodox Pascha
, which usually follows western Easter by a week or two. The difference is due to the fact that the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar, while the west follows the Gregorian. As a child our family celebrated both Easters, the second with my father’s relatives. We would go to visit my aunt and uncle in Chicago, and she would prepare us a sumptuous feast consisting of lamb (what else?), dolmadhes
(stuffed grape vine leaves), and various other Greek and Cypriot delectables. Like westerners, Greeks also have Easter eggs, but they are always coloured a deep red to represent the blood of Christ.
Occasionally some of us would accompany my aunt and uncle to their church for the Good Friday (or “Great Friday” in Greek) liturgy or the Paschal vigil taking place on late saturday night and into the early hours of sunday morning. What a rich experience! One can almost imagine being beneath the magnificent dome of Aghia Sophia
, with all those centuries of Byzantine civilization stretching back into the remote past.
After the lengthy service had come to an end, parishioners would make their way back home, carrying their lit candles with them (a rather scary thing to do, especially if you’re driving!), and enjoying something called maghiritsa soup
, an egg-lemon soup
containing the organs and intestines of the lamb to be eaten the following day. This breaks the lenten fast.
I myself did not grow up with all of this in its fulness, as we were members of an Orthodox Presbyterian church and later of a Baptist church. My Byzantine side was always at the periphery of my spiritual consciousness, but there has always been a part of me that has fervently desired to be in the centre of such a rich and ancient tradition.
Here is a poem in rondeau form I wrote several years ago which first appeared in the 6 April 1990 issue of Calvinist Contact
IF CHRIST AROSE
If Christ arose and put an end
To evil's sway, can I depend
On Love's true life to set aright
A life once lived by human might,
Or must I yet alone contend?
But if he did indeed ascend
From hellish depths, I cannot rend
Myself from him, nor quench the light,
If Christ arose.
I could not on my own intend
To live anew, or hope to mend
My errant ways; but in my plight
His life will shine amid the night,
And darkness shall no more impend,
If Christ arose.
© David T. Koyzis 1990