Photo: Dmitry Kiryukhin
Easter. Wonderful, bright, happy! About 30 years after my life changed dramatically and filled with faith, I always spent this wonderful day, or rather night, in the temple. Certainly a procession of the cross, certainly Eucharist and communion. Easter cakes, candles, krasenki… Different times, different temples, different states of health and physical strength… But, perhaps, the consciousness itself, the inner feeling of this symbolic, special worship, of this all-encompassing joy and spiritual upliftment was unchanged: universal celebration, spring, hugs – Christ is Risen! And smiles, laughter, and a lot of people: regular, well-known parishioners and “guests” who go to church only at Easter and Christmas. But the same: happy, happy faces, the happy ringing of bells and a vast sea of people with wavy candlelight, majestically swaying with measured waves in every happy – “Truly Risen!”.
But two Easters were especially remembered for the wonderful experiences that the celebration gave to the soul and heart. And also the fact that seemingly simple things, deeds and events can become a real revelation for the soul …
“I put three meters of flour”
I did my first Easter not in the temple, but … in the kitchen
I did my first Easter not in church, but … in the kitchen. Faith was already warming in my soul, but to go to church, even to a night service … I was not yet ready for such achievements. After many years of persecution, the churches were just beginning to open in Minsk, all around me – relatives and friends – were unbelievers who knew nothing about church life. Yes, and a baby daughter in her arms.
However! I really wanted to celebrate Easter! You’re just CELEBRATING. To make this day unusual, extraordinary, in general, out of the ordinary. How? There was only one thing left: to arrange an Easter treat for your family and yourself: paint eggs, bake the Easter cake. If everything was clear with krashenka – our grandmothers always prepared them for the holidays – then with baking everything is much more complicated. No one taught me the tricks of handling leavened dough. There was no ubiquitous Internet with his advice, but there was a huge and ardent desire to dare and try. Necessarily! Coincidentally, for good luck, or rather, in the hope of God’s help even in such an everyday and seemingly not at all spiritual matter.
Surrounded by culinary guides and grandma’s books with old recipes, I started looking for recommendations on how to successfully bake this marvel of culinary art called Easter cake. It turns out that there are many nuances and little secrets here: starting with the fact that you have to properly prepare all the ingredients in advance, knead the dough properly and then the whole dough. to recognize in time that it is just ripe for baking, to prepare and shape it in a special way, to take it out of the oven in time and so on.
I prayed and started. In fact, it’s like a kind of mystery when you combine flour, yeast and everything that’s supposed to be together. And manually, and not with the help of a lifeless machine, you mix them, feeling how such different, dissimilar substances with gentle and pleasant compliance are transformed into something whole, and this unique substance, as if alive, breathes under your hands.
“And the Lord said in a parable, The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (see Matthew 13:33).
That Holy Saturday, in the most ordinary kitchen, my heart just rejoiced as this first Easter bread in my life was being prepared.
I will never forget that happy joy, some kind of calm happiness that caught me when I started kneading this dough … Then, when I started going to Easter, and the procession, and communing at night, not every time I had to experience something similar. And that Holy Saturday, in the most ordinary kitchen, my heart just rejoiced as this first Easter bread in my life was being prepared.
How many wise, figurative, symbolic and metaphorical sayings about bread I later read in the Gospel from both the Holy Fathers and the theologians! Christ so often told parables about the bread to the people. Probably because daily bread is very important for a person. We need it to survive here, in this earthly, material world. And it also reminds us of another life – the heavenly one, given to us by the Lord, who said of Himself, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48).
And here is another picture: just as the fire in the oven affects the dough, so the earthly trials prepare the human soul for eternity. Saint Theophanes the Inner further develops this idea:
“The hostess puts the cake in the oven and does not take it out until she is sure that it has been baked. The Lord of the worlds put you in the oven and holds you in it, waiting for you to bake. Be patient and wait. Once cooked, you will no longer sit in the oven for minutes. They will take you out immediately. If you rush alone, you will be the same as a baked pie.
But the main thing: it is under the pretext of the bread that the Savior allows us to get as close as possible and even to unite with Him in the most important Mystery – Society, this heavenly food for the soul.
Yes, Easter treats are common, earthly foods, even festive ones. And you can treat them that way – like food. And you can … Even if my first Easter cake was a success, being fragrant, airy and delicious – it was not what impressed me the most. And the fact that the Lord visited even in ordinary, daily affairs.
In fact, “the Spirit breathes wherever he wants,” and our desires and actions are like leaven, yeast for the “dough” of existence, which is good, and sometimes spoiled. It’s up to us how, what and for what we mix in this “test”. The Lord, as the saints say, looks first of all at the heart, the sincerity, “if our heart burns within us” and, according to His infinite generosity, “accepts deeds and kisses the intention. and honors the act, and praises the proposal.
Like fragrant women
Easter 2020 became the most unforgettable!
Easter 2020 became the most unforgettable! There is an epidemic of an unknown virus in the world. Invisible, ubiquitous infection. Entire states impose quarantines, cancel plane and train flights, public events and celebrations. In transport, on the streets, in shops, everywhere – desert. The temples were also almost deserted. There are medical masks around – no faces visible. Only eyes. The air smells of anxiety, fear, despair. Nobody knows what to expect, what will happen to us after…
But what about Easter without vigilance? Without a procession? Without society? Here in Belarus, quarantine was not introduced and services were not canceled. So my family and I decided to go to the hospitable Church of the Resurrection in Minsk. And not far from the house, not in the center – it is unlikely to be very crowded – and a large churchyard where you can stand, keeping your distance and taking all kinds of precautions.
Almost midnight. For the first time, “Your Resurrection, Christ the Savior, the angels are singing in heaven” is heard quietly for the first time. So few people came to the service that everyone could fit freely in the temple. Everyone wears masks. I can not see facial expressions …
The procession takes to the streets. It blows cool. We are enveloped in a strange silence for an Easter night. There are residential areas around and the bells, which reflect from the dark and therefore somewhat indifferent windows, return to us, the brave ones, who decided that night to go to the tomb of the Savior, illuminating the street with unstable candlelight .. “Your resurrection Christ the Savior… »
Do they sleep there, outside the windows? Or are they sick? Or are they looking at us? No, we are not particularly pious, nor heroes or madmen who suffer from lack of attention. No. We are the ones who wanted to be closer to the joy of Easter, to the fullness of the feast of feasts and to the triumph of the feasts. And where is this fullness, the fullness? In the church, in worship, in society.
What is so memorable about that Easter? The feeling that came suddenly: we are like fragrant women, in part, not enough … However, as if we were going with them to the Master’s grave. And there are no centuries or millennia between us …
This night trip here, in the 21st century, between the disturbing silence and the real fear of the unknown and deadly danger, for the first time in my life made it possible for me to understand at least a little bit what it was like for those lonely travelers among the world who did not yet know Who is it – Jesus of Nazareth, and who did not care what happened to this Man…
The fragrant women did not yet know that Christ had risen when they walked. We knew that. And this difference is cardinal!
Where is the holiday season? Where is the general celebration? Today we are as few as they are – a cowardly drop. They were worried, scared – and so were we. They took risks, so did we. They were full of sorrow – and in our hearts, joy fought hard to win a place for itself against stress and fear. And it seemed that we, following the priests, who were leading us on this short but so symbolic journey – a journey into the depths of the centuries – were so alone …
And yet – it was easier for us, more fun! The fragrant women did not yet know that Christ had risen when they walked. We knew that. And this difference is cardinal!
And therefore, although we could not embrace each other boldly with the festive “Christ is Risen!”, The joy struck with a delicate chord – both in the choir song and in the prayers, and in the speech of the rector , who, congratulating the brave souls who came to the temple that night, sincerely confessed how with all his heart he wanted and tried, nevertheless, to perform this service.
And I remembered the gospel: “Do not be afraid, little flock! for the Father has given you pleasure in giving you the kingdom ”(Luke 12:32). “Do not be afraid! Just believe!” (Mark 5:36).