Holy Week and Pascha 2016
Each year we seem to manage to get to fewer and fewer of the Holy Week and Pascha services. Since Val retired, and the introduction of toll roads, it has become too expensive to travel much, so we had reduced the number of services we go to, and went only on Good Friday and Pascha itself.
We went to the Paschal Vigil at St Nicholas in Brixton, where, sad to say, the Easter kiss was omitted, for the first time in my memory. It was the Easter kiss that first got me hooked on Orthodoxy, and until this year it had part of the unbroken tradition of the Church of St Nicholas of Japan for the last 28 years. Singing “Let us embrace each other joyously” without actually doing it seems to show that we have lost the plot, and are turning Christianity into a spectator sport.
On the way home from the Paschal Vigil, at about 3:45 am the cops stopped us, and demanded that Jethro, who was driving, get out of the car. He asked why, and they said they wanted to search him. So he asked if we could go to the police station, because the place where we had stopped was a lonely one, under a bridge, where people are often mugged, and it has not been unheard of for robbers to dress up in police uniforms and then rob people. So we drove to the Villeria police station where the police inspected Jethro’s driving licence and looked at the car, and then we went on home.
We got to bed at about 4:30 am, and had to be up again at 6:30, when we went to fetch Alinah Malahlela from Mamelodi, and took her with us to Atteridgeville for the Hours and Readers service there. Alinah’s family were away for the weekend, and it was the only service she, or any of the people at Atteridgeville, would have for Holy Week and Pascha, so we thought it fairly important that they should have something.
We met, as usual, in the African Orthodox Church (AOC), which we use for our Sunday services at 9:00 am, and the AOC people have their service at 10:30 am, so the timing works out rather well. The AOC had invited us to join them for Western Good Friday a month before, and we had done so, so we invited them to join us for our Easter, which the did. We had the Hours and Readers Service, as usual, except that the Hours of Pascha are different — shorter, with no reading of Psalms, and a lot of singing. And in spite of the fact that only three of us actually knew the music, it sounded as though everyone was singing, and the singing filled the little church. We took Alinah home, and got home ourselves at 12:00 noon. At lunch we had our Easter eggs scrambled, with bacon.
We left again just after 4:00 pm, and went to fetch Fr Frumentius at the Monastery of the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Gerhardville, and went back to St Nicholas in Brixton for the Vespers of Love.
We read the Gospel (about Doubting Thomas) in as many languages as we could find Bibles for and people who can read them. I’m not sure of all the languages that we read this year, but among them were English, Greek, Iralian, French, Herero, Pedi, Zulu and Afrikaans. One year we had 17 languages, including Masndarin Chinese. I don’t think we’ve ever had Japanese, even though the church is dedicated to St Nicholas of Japan.
About a third of the people in the congregation left at the beginning. so they didn’t get to hear that, but the rest of us had a good time.
In the Orthodox Church Easter Week is called Bright Week, and unlike other occasions, at Vespers during Bright Week all the lights in the church are turned up to the maximum, making the church look much brighter4 than usual.
We took Fr Frumentius home, and got home ourselves at about 10:00 pm. I estimate that this Pascha we must have driven nearly 500 km, and spent about 10 hours of the previous 24 sitting in a car, travelling to and from services. In the course of that driving we saw at least four other vehicles driving through red robots at high speed. There are always news items at long weekends about the number of people killed on the roads, usually attributed to speed. But this is misleading. It is not usually speed alone that is the problem, but recklessness. Driving at 80 km/h on an empty double carriageway late at night, when there is no other traffic, even when there is a 60 km/h speed limit, is not really dangerous. Driving though a red robot at 140 km/h, passing other vehicles waiting there, is a big problem. The driver of such a vehicle has no chance to see if a vehicle is coming the other way, much less to stop to avoid it.