My husband is the priest and I am the chanter and one of our five sons serves so it is a family affair. Today, I brought four of the six daughters so we could have a small procession. We have been keeping things small, smaller than this at times, and live streaming services over Facebook to anyone who misses church and craves a few minutes of opportunity to live vicariously.
We are clumsy. It is hard to have so few people. There are never enough people to hold books or doors or move the camera for Holy Communion. We all try to fill multiple roles at the same time, moving like circus performers spinning plates on poles. Sometimes we move gracefully and glide past and around each other with those plates spinning smoothly over our heads. Often we fumble and lose track of one plate while attending another. We drop many, many plates and step on each other’s lines and are slow to respond but we are there. I never watch the live stream and I simply hope for the best and pray that the others watching at home are gentle in their judgments.
Today would be that last of the Pascha services, the last of the sung Pascha hours, the last of the Pascha canon, the last of the feast of feasts and it would culminate with a procession of small girls carrying an icon of the Resurrection and the Artos while their father and brother and the lone monk of this isolated community processed around the church. I walked behind them singing, as loudly as I was able, the Paschal canon for the last Bright Week service of 2020. It certainly felt bright and Bright. I felt bright. 2020 hasn’t felt so warm and hopeful for such a long time. It felt like waking up from a bad dream to find the morning dawning clear and full of light.
After we sliced the artos and saved some for the children at home, after some coffee and juice, after a hasty lunch on paper plates, the real world dripped back in like water through the weak seam of a rowboat. There is still a quarantine. State law now mandates that a quick run to the grocery store requires a mask and a queue and to be counted as I enter and exit. Finding toilet paper is a triumph and I am still hoarding bread flour so I can bake the bread that my husband will consecrate during Liturgy. I had been holding my breath, waiting for Pascha, and for what would happen on the other side. Now I am here and I find that I don’t know what I was waiting for but only that I was waiting.
We see the incredibly stark division between life now and life two months ago but are also profoundly conscious of the slow passage of hours and days as we wait to be released from homes to go out and find what the lay of the land looks like these days. There are just shy of three more weeks of quarantine here and it is a day marked out on people’s calendars. That is the day that life begins, it is when we come out of the dark and into the light. I know better, or I should know better. I have seen the Light of Lights and it has come down to dwell among men.
Quarantine was easier while it was winter, while it snowed, while the wind battered our farmhouse out on the peninsula. It was easier to shelter in place as we sheltered from winter. The seasons are shifting and the weather is turning and the earth becoming exposed. Our woods call to the children and teens and they take daily walks down to the creek and wander the ravines that their father and his father and his father before him walked. With the warm weather and the hope of hearing the peeper frogs in the evening comes a disorienting sense that I can’t see what it is we are escaping.
I have a sense that I am standing before a closed door and wondering who is on the other side. Once the door is opened, I cannot go back, I can only go forward. Knowing this, I will take a piece of Pascha with me. I will knock and know that the door will open and when it does, it will let in the King of Glory and where He goes, so I will follow.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Psalm 24:7-10