Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week

So this week, in contrast to any other Holy Week in my life that I can recall, is about staying home and preparing for Pascha (instead of being about going to church and preparing for Pascha). I have a 6-month-old who will not sleep anywhere but in her crib (for more than 30 minutes, sometimes only 15), which means if I take her to the pre-sanctified liturgies every morning this week, by the end of the week, she may have forgotten entirely what it is to take a morning nap. The evening services, called Bridegroom Matins, are each at 8 p.m., so that's after my kids go to bed. Husband and I are taking turns going to those (I attend the ones he's not required to sing at). I'm even further confined to home by the fact that he has to squeeze in 18 hours of hospital visitation in three days this week, so he has the car.

I told the girls that Holy Week is for getting our hearts, home, and baskets ready for Pascha. For our hearts: we're not doing school this week, they're not watching videos (our girls usually watch one 30-minute video per day), and they're not eating "sweets" (both to heighten their appreciation of them on Pascha and to simplify my life a bit, so I don't have to make desserts). So far this is all going okay. Of course, H. was excited to be off of school. Not watching videos has been harder on me than on them, because that's how I get a break from the demands of parenting each day. I did give in and let them listen to storytime online tonight. They've stopped asking for sweets more quickly than I anticipated, but I must have asked K. seventeen times to quit asking me to lick the beaters as we made Cheese Pascha today, so perhaps the sugar addiction isn't completely broken! It's interesting to see them fighting more with each other during this time with fewer distractions and more prayers. It must be similar to what God has to put up with as He watches us during Lent.

For our home: we planned to scrub the bathroom on Monday, their room on Tuesday, the living/dining room on Wednesday, and the kitchen sometime Thursday and/or Friday. They both pitched in and helped a lot on the bathroom. H. didn't want to stop even when it was time for snack! We have white bathroom floors here, and I'm not the best about keeping them spotless, but it sure does look nice for now.

For our baskets: the plan was to make Cheese Pascha on Monday (see picture above of it draining in the fridge), cinnamon tortilla chips on Tuesday, fill the girls' baskets:
and make our "bitters" (horseradish and beet mixture):
for the big basket on Wednesday, dye eggs on Thursday, and make braided bread on Friday. Then we'll assemble the big basket on Saturday, with red eggs, lamb-shaped butter (I'd like a cross mold, but didn't have time to order one this year), sausage and ham, salt and bitters, Shiner Bock beer (instead of wine!), braided bread, and a candle. As you can see, ahead of time I decorated the handle of our basket with red ribbon and artificial flowers.

Another strange thing about this year for me is that I've decided that the children and I will probably miss most of the Paschal Nocturnes/Liturgy service. Part of that is because of the baby, who is guaranteed to stay awake for the whole thing and be cranky; part of it is the extreme lack of space in our chapel, so that I would have to hold at least the baby the entire time, and my back just can't take it; and part of it is how the crowding affects the older two, who have no place to rest. Last year was, honestly, miserable, and I found myself shocked that the excitement and joy of Pascha did not override the uncomfortable circumstances. Pascha definitely did not arrive in my heart until vespers the next day. I say all of this, almost unable to believe that I'm saying it, because Pascha is not just my favorite feast or church service, it's not just my favorite day of the year, it's my favorite. Period. It's my favorite anything. I've judged people in my heart for not attending the midnight service because of their kids before. God forgive me. I just couldn't see how anything would be important enough to make a person miss Pascha. But missing nocturnes, etc. does not mean that I'm not celebrating Pascha. I'll celebrate it throughout the Paschal season; and when our circumstances change (kids get older, attending a parish with more space so they can rest, etc.), I'll return with joy to my favorite service of the year!

So, dear readers (if I have any), I pray you have a blessed Holy Week and joyous Pascha!


Jenna said...


I wandered to your blog today for no particular reason, and I found was a kindred spirit! I have had a similar experience to you this Holy Week and Pascha! We are attending St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in St. Louis, and despite being a church with about 600 giving units (seminary term :)), they did not have a chanter who could adequately do the extra services in English, so they have drafted Jacob. They are paying him, which is great, because we are living on his grad school stipend alone this year. But Holy Week (and all of Lent, in fact) has been really crazy for us. The extra Lenten services have been at 7 or 8 (John and Michael's bedtimes, respectively), and all of the Holy Week services have been at 7. So that means that if I want to go, I have to have the kids alone in a pew, up past bedtime, in a church that is generally friendly toward kids but where few small kids attend (nothing like SVOTS chapel where kids are everywhere and their noise is barely noticeable). To make matters worse I flew to and from NYC on Thursday to defend my dissertation, and I am thoroughly exhausted from the process. Anyway, I am not going to Pascha tonight, either, because I am too tired to wake the kids up in the middle of the night, deal with them at church while crabby, deal with them tomorrow when we have all gotten very little sleep, and so on. And if things got bad there would be no way for us to leave early since we have one car and Jacob would have to stay to chant. Anyway, I just wanted to say...I understand! And it is nice to know that you understand, too. What I keep trying to tell myself is that in the blink of an eye, the kids will be big, and I will miss these times when they were little. My priest also reminded me that this longing and this "exile" of sorts--this is a very Lenten experience. We are sharing Christ's journey, in a very real way, at home.

Blessed Pascha to you and your family!


Audra said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Jenna. It;s nice to know I wasn't alone in my isolation, as ironic as that sounds. Happy Pascha to yoiur family!