UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Pascha at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL!
By Subdeacon Vasyl Pasakas
Holy Week came to an end at sunset of Great and Holy Saturday, as the Church prepared to celebrate her most ancient and preeminent festival, Pascha, the feast of feasts. The time of preparation gave way to a time of fulfillment. The glorious and respondent light emanating from the empty Tomb dispelled the darkness.
The central mystery of the Christian Faith is the glorious Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, through which mankind is offered the gift of another life, which is eternal. This gift of eternal life was wrought for us in a most remarkable way, for our Lord accomplished all this by voluntarily suffering His Passion, being nailed to the Cross and descending into the tomb.
To the world, suffering is something to be avoided at all costs, the Cross is foolishness, and death is spoken of as little as possible. But Christ takes those things that are feared by the world, and uses them to reveal His glory and His power. He undergoes suffering to free us from suffering; He ascends the Cross to bring joy to the world; and He voluntarily endures death so that He might trample it down.
Throughout the mystical beautiful paschal services, we sing of this great paradox of eternal life which is accomplished through death: trampling down death by death… From death to life... Christ, Who is Life itself, dies for us so that we who are dead might live. We no longer fear the things that the world fears because they have no power over us. As St. John Chrysostom, in his magnificent paschal homily, reminds us: “Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into hell, He made Hell captive.”
Pascha is the dawn of the new and unending day. The Resurrection constitutes the most radical and decisive deliverance of humankind. It confirms the authenticity of Christ's remarkable earthly life and vindicates the truth of His teaching. It seals all His redemptive work: His life, the model of a holy life; His compelling and unique teaching; His extraordinary works; and His awesome, life-creating death. Christ's Resurrection is the guarantee of our salvation. Together with His Ascension it brings to perfection God's union with us for all eternity.
The Resurrection made possible the miracle of the Church, which in every age and generation proclaims and affirms "God's plan for the universe, the ultimate divinization of man and the created order." The profound experience of and the unshakable belief in the risen Lord enabled the Apostles to evangelize the world and empowered the Church to overcome paganism. The Resurrection discloses the indestructible power and inscrutable wisdom of God. It disposes of the illusory myths and belief systems by which people, bereft of divine knowledge, strain to affirm the meaning and purpose of their existence. Christ, risen and glorified, releases humanity from the delusions of idolatry. In Him grave-bound humanity discovers and is filled with incomparable hope. The Resurrection bestows illumination, energizes souls, brings forgiveness, transfigures lives, creates saints, and gives joy.
With such spiritual understanding of the most profound feast of the Church year, the faithful of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL came together to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His Grace Bishop Daniel, the ruling hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA, walked out of the sanctuary of the cathedral with the Paschal candle chanting in unison with clergy: Your Resurrection O Christ our Lord… and as the bishop finished chanting, a powerful thunderstorm and lightning struck the peaceful night hours of sleeping Chicago. The rain started to drizzle; however, it did not stop the Paschal procession around the cathedral… Then came the breathless moment as the people waited for the bishop and the clergy to start the hymn of Resurrection, which they join him in singing, repeatedly: "Christ is Risen from the Dead, trampling death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life,” and then the glorious and most joyful exclamation: Christ is Risen! Христос Воскрес! And then anothet powerful thunderstorm, as if the nature were in unison with the bishop proclaiming the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection!
From this moment the entire service took on a joyous Pascha atmosphere. The hymns of the Odes and Praises of Resurrection which follow, which were sang by St. Volodymyr cathedral's choir under the direction of Volodymyr Popowych, are of superb meaning and expression. The people confessed, "It is the Day of Resurrection, let us be glorious, let us embrace one another and speak to those that hate us; let us forgive all things and so let us cry, Christ has arisen from the dead". By this hymn they admitted that love of one's fellowman is the solid foundation of the faith in the Resurrection of Christ.
The bishop, assisted by the pastor of the cathedral community Archimadrite Pankratij, Very Rev. Andriy Shelvakh and Protodeacon Andriy Fronchak led the Pascha Vigil liturgical services beginning at 11:30PM on Saturday night, entering together with the cathedral parish community of hundreds of people into the joy of the Resurrection of Christ!
At the end of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom Bishop Daniel blessed the traditional Pascha baskets filled of Pascha bread (paskas), eggs, meats, cheese, etc.
With the chanting of the Paschal tropar and a joyful exclamation Christ is Risen! Христос Воскрес!, the faithful departed the cathedral temple sharing with each other the joy of our Lord's Resurrection, taking to heart the final words of their archpastor: “Let us therefore rejoice in the Risen Lord and be encouraged to face our own struggles with courage and hope, knowing that the Lord is ever with us. And as we celebrate the bright and joyous day of His Resurrection, let us exclaim with the Apostle Paul: O death, where is thy sting? O hell, where is thy victory? (I Cor. 15:55). May we all be granted to partake of eternal life with joy at the Banquet of Immortality.”
Pascha at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL! - 04/15/12Pascha at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL!