I got the call early in the week. It was my mother, and she told me that the two chanters at her very small Greek parish in Wichita Falls were going to be out of town on Holy Saturday and Pascha. I knew what was coming next, and I was terrified.
“If we cannot find anyone to fill in would you and the girls be willing to help?”
Last year we traveled to my mother’s parish for Pascha, and we were going again this year. My sweet mother had arranged all of it. Last year our whole family was together; my parents, grandmother, two brothers and their wives, our nephew, and us. We all stayed at a hotel and went to services together. It was wonderful, and I was so looking forward to this again. And then the call… the request that immediately changed my relaxed anticipation into fear.
I said yes. I could have said no. But, somehow I sensed that this was a wonderful gift our family could give Jesus for Pascha. I wanted to give Him a gift by helping the Church in Wichita Falls. I love my mother’s church, a country church with no pretensions. Cradle Orthodox tell me all the time that I know more about the faith than they do. This comment makes me cringe. I want to tell them, “What does knowing have to do with anything? You are here, you have always been here, in the Church, living and breathing the life of the Church. I am nothing.” That’s how I feel about this little church in West Texas that has held on to the faith in not so friendly conditions. It humbles me. It also amazes me, the care that Christ has for His Church, even very small churches in the middle of nowhere. No domes, no choir or traditional chanters, not even traditional icons. However, the heart of the Church is Christ, and He is everywhere present. He lives in the people who sing the joyous Paschal hymns.
I spent all of Holy Week preparing for the services of Holy Saturday and Sunday. My whole family pitched in, and it stretched us. We are in no way professional singers or chanters. However, we know enough to sing. And I have learned that we all know enough to sing! Every Orthodox Christian can and must sing Pascha! It is in the sweet melodies of the heart that Christ is hymned, remembered, worshiped, and glorified.
I had many plans for cleaning, cooking, and preparing for Pascha. But, all of those plans were let go as I prepared for the real Pascha. Let us now lay aside all earthly cares. There is something very wonderful about stretching oneself beyond the limits of knowledge and ability. It is truly in our weakness that we can experience the righteousness of Christ. It is when we feel that we cannot go on that we learn to lean on the one who can and does go on…unto the Ages of Ages. I remember Abraham who did not lose his faith as he considered the weakness of his flesh….
And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb. Romans 4:19
As Adalay and I set out very early on Saturday morning for the two hour trek to Holy Cross in Wichita Falls, I prayed once again, “Lord please send just one Greek lady that knows the special hymns in Greek, and Lord please receive my song, however off tune and choppy it sounds. I am just a baby, and I feel very vulnerable.”
And God provided. Out of the congregation He provided. He provided a wonderful woman visiting from Dallas that was once a choir director in San Antonio, she sang the special hymns in Greek. An elderly gentlemen whose wife is dying with cancer came and sang Gladsome Light in Greek, and as the tears rolled down his cheeks I thought, “This is the Church.” My daughter, Adalay, sang her heart out, and was moved by her participation. I could sense the work being done in her heart. Caroline helped her daddy with Samuel and the littles. It was a team effort,a family effort. This Pascha was so moving, my best so far as a convert. It was not the most put together, and I have definitely been more prepared and polished in the past, but it was the most real. It seemed that this Pascha made all things new.
And as we drove home, our bellies full of the lamb from the spit and baklava, I looked at my car loaded up with all the goodies that the wonderful women of Holy Cross baked and gave to us, I saw all the Easter eggs, I saw all the bags and blankets and pillows, and I smiled. I watched my bobble headed kiddos sleep, too tired to talk but oh so happy. I felt very full, full of joy.
We drove home in the rain, much needed rain. The day just kept getting better.
My brother called me at 10:00 Sunday night, and he said, “Well sis, Jesus sent a flood on Pascha.” He said he had never seen it rain so hard, and that he had gone out in his front yard and looked up and cried with thanks. We are in exceptional drought, the kind of drought that makes farmers and ranchers panic, and cities scramble to provide for citizens, and lakes dry up completely. Scary drought. But, Jesus sent a flood on Pascha. It will not cure the drought, but it is our hope. Rain does still fall from the sky.
Pascha is a flood! Pascha is like a flood in a drought! Christ is the rain for every parched heart. He is risen, and His flood washes away our sicknesses, our burdens, our sin. We worship His third day resurrection.
My friend and I spoke on the phone this morning, sharing Pascha stories…Pascha joy. She told me, “I cannot believe I have to wait another year to do this again.” I thought later, “You don’t.” Pascha is our present, an eternal present, and eternal feast of joy!