‘Twas the Night Before Pascha

Why yes, this is the sequel to “Red Eggs and Lamb.” The inspiration comes from the Christmas-like weather we had this weekend (we kept adapting Christmas songs to Pascha: “I’m dreaming of a white Pascha…,” “Have yourself a merry little Pascha…”)!

If you have been following the weather here in Colorado, you know that we had rain/snow for three days straight. Luckily in Fort Collins it was only rain so it was just wet but other parts of the state got a lot of snow. Leave it to Colorado to snow in May for Pascha.

Anyways….

Holy Week is my favorite week of the entire year. That is no exaggeration because I love everything about it. It is full of traditions and anticipation for Pascha. I enjoy going to the church services each day during the week because they tell a vivid story of Jesus’s last days through the Gospel passages and the chanting.

Holy Week really kicks off with Palm Sunday. The rest of the family came up this year for Palm Sunday, which was great since they had never been to St. Spyridon before. It was great to see them and spend time with them since we hadn’t seen them since we were home for spring break and because Katie and I didn’t end up going home for Pascha.

It was a beautiful service as usual, followed by a delicious brunch at the Egg and I in Loveland. I do wish the weather could have been a little warmer considering we were at the end of April, but it was just a foreshadow of what was to come later in the week.

Luckily for both Katie and myself, we hit a slow week in terms of school work so we were able to go to services every day of the week. I enjoy going each day because every service is different, telling a different part of Jesus’s last days and the resurrection.

Not only that, Katie and I did end up fasting from meat for Holy Week. It is customary to fast from dairy and meat for the entirety of Lent, but Katie and I have been accustomed to a low carb diet, which makes fasting from meat that whole time impossible, but we managed to make it work during Holy Week.

Our big fast for Lent was mainly from sugar and caffeine (I also gave up alcohol), items which we deemed equally as hard because they served as temptations for us on a daily basis.

Monday and Tuesday’s services were the Bridegroom services, which are these mellow services that teach various parables that ease you in to the rest of the week. They are filled with beautiful chants and readings of various psalms. I really enjoy these because they are a different service than just your typical liturgy.

Wednesday was Holy Unction, which is one of the seven sacraments in the church. It is offered every year, and I always make a point of going. It is a very popular service, so it always gets a pretty decent turnout for a weekday service. It was also exciting because I got to watch Jj take his godson, Damian, up for his very first unction after being baptized last month.

Damian's first unction.
Damian’s first unction.

We finished up the night by grabbing a late dinner at Cosmo’s in Fort Collins. You can never go wrong with pizza (and spicy ranch) during Lent.

Thursday is probably one of my favorite services: the reading of the 12 Gospels. It is by far the longest service and the most tedious, but I love how it tells the story of the betrayal through the resurrection as it was written in the Gospels. It is so vivid and the passages keep you on the edge of your seat, just waiting to see what will happen next.

And as the tradition continues, we hit IHOP afterwards for post-liturgy dinner.

Post-liturgy IHOP with the squad.
Post-liturgy IHOP with the squad.

I skipped school on Good Friday to go and decorate the kouvouklion (the tomb) at the church and attend the afternoon and evening church service. It was a marathon of a day and the weather did not make it much better – it was raining all day long. Since St. Spyridon moved last fall, they have not began to renovate to make double doors in the back of the church to accommodate the kouvouklion, so it was kept in the narthex to view upon entering into the church. The Sunday school kids helped to make a mini-kouvouklion that was kept in the church for the weekend. Both were processed around the church Friday night in light of the drizzle.

This year's kouvouklion, sitting in the narthex of the church.
This year’s kouvouklion, sitting in the narthex of the church.

I was asked by Maria, Jj’s mom and parish council president, to take photos of the procession because what am I doing when I’m not taking photos? It was actually a lot of fun because I got to be at the forefront of the action with the procession. Plus, Jj and his dad were some of the men who carried and held the kouvouklion. I’m super proud of both of them, especially Jj, because it is hard to do because it is so heavy!

All the men carrying the kouvouklion during the procession.
All the men carrying the kouvouklion during the procession.

Saturday was an adventure to say the least. This year, Katie and I decided to take on the task of baking tsoureki, Greek Easter sweet bread. It literally took all afternoon by the time we had to leave it to rise, shape it and bake it. It was a decent bake with all the taste of the tsoureki, though it did not rise as we would hope. Not bad for our first try.

Our completed tsoureki.
Our completed tsoureki.

We also made goodies to take to the community barbecue that was on Sunday. I tasked myself with baking cupcakes to get my baking itch out of the way, and Katie made manestra (orzo), which turned out absolutely perfect. Definitely not a dull moment on Saturday.

By the time we were done, it was time to rest up for the Anastasi. Surprisingly, I was able to nap this year. I always have a really hard time taking naps before the service, but I guess the day wore me out to where I was passed out for almost two hours.

Katie and I were going to spend Saturday night at the Tschetters after the service, so we stopped there on the way to the church to drop off all the food we had made and to pick up Jj and his sister, Nicole, who was visiting from Rapid City, SD.

Piling into Medusa and blasting Greek dubstep, we headed to church.

My absolutely favorite moment of the entire service is where the church goes dark and the priest lights the candle at the front of the church and begins to sing “Come receive the light.” It makes me giddy with excitement, as if it was my very first Anastasi all over again.

After church, Fr. Evan blessed the traditional Pascha baskets, containing all the items people fast from (we added coffee gelato and wine to the Tschetter’s basket, which included a 25 piece from Raising Cane’s), and then we headed into the community center to feast at 2 a.m.

Breaking the fast at 2 a.m. on Sunday.
Breaking the fast at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

(Side note: just like to give my little bro Tom a shout out for serving in the Anastasi service alongside Metropolitan Isaiah…it’s like goals for an altar boy to do that!)

Once we got up Sunday morning, it was time to break the fast. We made a Starbucks run where I had my first latte in 50 days and then Lamar’s Donuts for donuts. I have to say, Lamar’s probably gives The Donut Maker a run for its money – their donuts are phenomenal!

The weather began to look up a little bit as we headed to to the community barbecue at the church. The church was packed with people and there was a feast of food that all the community members contributed. The best part of the whole day was when we started to Greek dance and it caught on to where a lot of people joined in and were interested in learning. It was definitely better than last year’s barbecue. Katie and I were even asked to start a Greek/Russian/folk dance group at the church so people could learn the basic dances (a new project we are going to start for the summer).

File May 04, 8 42 32 AM
With the homies at the community BBQ on Sunday.

And that was the day. The day of a holiday always goes by so fast, but the week leading up to Pascha went by even faster. It was nice to take a break from school for the weekend (and really the week) and focus on church and the holiday. It gave me a nice mental break, allowing me to be completely focused for my upcoming finals.

Stay tuned for my April monthly recap.

Christ is Risen!

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