Holy Week and Pascha (what's sometimes called Orthodox Easter) are a whirlwind of activity, with 23-26 (depending on how you count) church services, each 1-3 hours long, crammed into ten days.
Since I'm the protopsaltis in our parish, I take the week off from gainful employment and work instead for the benefit of my church family and my own soul. This year, Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha were a study in stark contrast.
We've been without a permanent priest for several years, but our bishop has always provided extra services during Great Lent. Until this year. We started Lent with no priest and we struggled through Lent with no priest. We had exactly one Liturgy during all of Lent. My family and I intended to go to services during the week at the local Russian church ("local" meaning it's only a half hour drive away), but we got terribly sick for three weeks... half of Lent. This, by far, was the hardest Lent I've ever been through. At first, we had a light at the end of the tunnel, because a priest from California that we know and love was planning to come up and be with us for Holy Week and Pascha. Then, half-way through Lent, his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given six weeks to live. Even still, he told the bishop that he would still come to Alaska to serve us, but the bishop told him to take care of his mother. As much as I completely agreed with the bishop's decision, I have not felt so stunned and dismayed except twice in my life: one was the first time a close friend was killed in a car accident, and the other was when a family member revealed they were fighting a terminal disease.
Strangely, I never challenged God in all of this. I'm hardly Job, but maybe years of reading about him is finally starting to wear off. As befuddled as I was that day Fr. Stephen called to say he couldn't come, I somehow knew and took some comfort in the knowledge that God had His reasons and that He would reveal them when and if He chose to do so.
Then the call came that a replacement priest was being sent up. Guarded relief: he's a young priest from the People's Democratic Republic of Kalifornia. So I found him and his wife on
|Palm Sunday procession|
|Fr. Ephraim on Pascha|