28 April 2011

Orthodox Mass for Easter

Let's just begin this post by being honest: I was not looking forward to Easter Mass. It's not that I wasn't looking forward to seeing an Orthodox Mass, or to experiencing the culture... but beginning the service at 12am when I'd been awake since 5am the previous morning, having to stand for 4-7 hours listening to a sermon I wouldn't completely understand, and fighting a cold... well, it was less than enticing. But after the fire I went home and I had about 3 hours until one of my students was going to come to my house so we would walk to the church (on the other side of the village) together. Because I was anticipating her call that would wake me up, I wasn't really able to sleep. But it's ok- because once we started walking it was all ok.

We missed the first 2ish hours of the service, which was apparently important, but not important enough to stand through it... because the end was what was the most important. As we were walking to the church in the pitch black we could hear the singing coming from the church when we were about halfway there... and then as we got nearer, we could see the glow of the church. It was absolutely beautiful and peaceful, and I found myself full of energy once again.

Once we actually arrived at the church it was pretty packed. Many people were standing outside because the inside was full. A couple of my students told me to follow them into the church regardless and they lead me to a tiny metal (and rather unsteady) spiral staircase. We climbed up it (good thing I dressed warm and so I had jeans on under my skirt) and then arrived at the 2nd level- which is actually where the choir usually stands. This was AWESOME because not only did it provide a great view but it was warm and we could sit if we got tired (which we did). Here we were able to observe what was going on, but like I said, we arrived late so there wasn't too much other than some singing by the choir, a speech from the Priest telling most people to go outside for something, and Communion.

Around 4:30am we headed outside to arrange our food. This is where, in the videos, you can see everyone has lit candles. They put the candles in their food and arranged it nicely on the ground. Then, once the Mass was finished, the Priest (and his followers) came outside and walked around with Holy water and sprayed (err, blasted) it on us and the food: thus blessing the food. (You can see this in one of the videos, too). If people didn't come for the Mass, they for sure made it for this event. There is also supposed to be a torch that comes from Riscani, but I don't think it made it to the village (apparently this isn't the first time this has happened).

After the food had been blessed some people went home with their families and began eating (yes, at 5am) while others, like me, went home and crashed. I slept in until noon- a new personal record. Luckily we didn't have plans until 3 in the afternoon, so that was ok.

The best part? I saw a shooting star just before the sun started to rise.

This is the church when we first arrived.
This is our church from the inside during the Mass. The Priest was in the back room preparing something- I believe blessing the food/wine for Communion or the water for the food.
This is the Priest walking around the bless the food at the end of the ceremony.

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