Friday, April 22, 2016

This year in Jerusalem

…I wish! At the end of the Passover Seder, we used to pray, ‘O Pure One, Who dwells on high, raise up the countless congregation, soon—guide the offshoots of Your plants, redeemed, to Zion with glad song. Next year in Jerusalem!’

I miss the festival of Pesach, the Jewish Passover. We used to observe Pesach with a Seder at our house while our four sons were growing up. Sometimes with guests, sometimes not, but an extra seat was always ready for the unexpected guest… may it be holy prophet Elijah! We haven't observed Pesach as a family for many years now. You see, we're Greek Orthodox, and we're not supposed to. Oh well, nobody said we couldn't! I miss it, nonetheless.

I compiled a Passover Haggadah, celebrating Pesach with the Messiah, in those early days, and gradually evolved it over the years. This year I had intended to finish laying it out afresh with new graphics, and possibly having a Seder here again at Sky House, but I ran out of time. It has been a very busy year, right down to the day. God grant me to complete it for next year. Now that self-publishing is so easy, when I finish the new version, I can have it printed and bound for a couple of dollars a copy.

This year the Jewish Passover starts before the onset of Holy Week. Some years, however, it coincides with it. Usually it’s close enough to gently merge into Palm Sunday and the Bridegroom services. Thinking about this makes me wonder what it will be like in Jerusalem this year. I wonder how the holy fire will appear in the kouvouklion (tomb of Christ) inside the Anastasis (Resurrection) Church, what Western Christians call the ‘Church of the Holy Sepulchre.’ This year the Catholic and Orthodox observe Pascha five weeks apart! Next year it will be on the same Sunday. Who will get to go inside, when Greeks and Latins venerate the resurrection of Jesus on the same day? They must take turns. But, as for the holy fire…

In case any of my friends and readers in the Portland area find this post, I want to encourage them to experience at least some of the many daily services of Great and Holy Week. The services are beautiful and edifying in every detail. We venerate Christ the Bridegroom, and we hear Him say to us in the gospel, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me’ (John 12:23-26). What an awesome invitation to follow Jesus, revealing both the cost of discipleship, and its reward.

In the first Bridegroom service, held on Sunday evening, the noble Joseph, an Old Testament prophetic type of the Christ, is lauded.

‘Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph, but his noble son was seated in a chariot and honored as a king; for when he refused to be enslaved by the fascinations of the Egyptian woman, he was glorified by Him Who beholds the hearts of men and bestows an incorruptible crown.’ [Kontakion]

‘Let us now add our lamentations to him who laments, and let us pour out our tears with those of Jacob bewailing his glorious and wise son. For Joseph, though enslaved in body, preserved his soul in freedom and became lord over all Egypt. For God prepares for His servants an incorruptible crown.’ [Ikos]

As for us, we sing these words paraphrasing the words of our Savior Jesus:

‘All the powers of the hosts of the Gentiles shall be ranged against you, for My portion is not with the minds of rulers nor with their authority. He therefore who would be chief among you, let him be the servant of all; and knowing Me as your Lord, sing praises, and exalt unto all ages.’ [Troparion]

To everyone, I extend good wishes for a blessed Pascha, happy Pesach, and a beautiful Resurrection.
‘Let us sing unto the Lord, Who by His divine command dried up the impassable and foaming sea, and permitted the people of Israel to pass through on foot; for gloriously has He been glorified.’
[1st Ode, 2nd Tone, Irmos, from the 1st Bridegroom service]


Sasha said...

This is beautiful, brother. :)
I am, you probably know, of Jewish roots but never celebrated Jewish holidays. My mother did in the past, though to her it was a cultural thing, not a faith related activity. She's now with us in the Orthodox Church but this post gave me an idea that we could celebrate Pesach too.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Hey Sasha,
If I am able to re-layout and publish my Passover Haggadah for Orthodox (Jewish) Christians before next Pesach, I will send you a PDF copy to have a look, and if you like it and want to use it, I will be publishing it at and I am pretty sure the price will be low enough to buy six or eight copies. For short books (80 pages or so) it's under $5 a book!
Have a blessed Holy Week and glorious Pascha!