Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Christos Voskrese! Voistinu Voskrese!
By death He
and to those in the graves
He granted life.
o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen,
and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen,
and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen,
andlife is liberated!
Christ is Risen,
Easter Customs of the Carpatho-Rusyn People
by Michael Roman, Amerikansky Russky Viestnik, 17 April 1941
The festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord is celebrated with a variety of customs in many parts of the world. Our Carpatho-Rusyn people, who have a folk culture which dates back for many centuries, also celebrate Easter in a colorful and interesting way. Many of the customs have been handed down from pagan times when the Ancient Slavs believed in gods and goddesses whom they created to explain the mysteries of nature. Thus some of our present day Easter customs are in some way or another connected with the Paleo-Slavonic Mythology
Many of these interesting customs have been brought over to America from the other side and are practiced by our people, both old and young.
The customs of our people vary depending on the locality. In Zemplinska and Sariska different customs are practiced than in the other provinces such as Spisska, Marmoroska, Berecka or the Lemko region. However there are some that are alike in all of the provinces.
Every Carpatho-Rusyn family strives to have a pascha, dyed eggs, delicious meals, cheese, butter and other goodies taken to church where they are blessed. The foods are eaten on Easter Sunday. This custom is a traditional one and is practiced by every true Carpatho-Rusyn family whether in America or in the homeland.
The variation in customs can be found in the games, songs and dances, the origin of which, can, in most cases, be traced to the Slavonic Mythology. Rev. Nestor Volensky, a distinguished Carpatho-Rusyn man of letters and a historian, traced many of the customs to the pagan times and had written much about them.
The game of "Pohrebenije Kostrubon'ka", played on Easter Sunday afternoon by the girls in some of the Carpatho-Rusyn villages, has been handed down from the pagan times when it was a religious ceremony on the festival of the spring sun. Kostrubon'ka in Rusyn, refers to the somewhat undulating rays of the sun in winter time. In the game, on of the girls, who is called the Kostrubon'ka, is acting as though she is falling while the other girls sing mournful songs. All of a sudden the Kostrubon'ka stands erect in a happy manner and the girls start singing happy songs.
In a few words this game signifies the "burial" (pohrebenije) or the passing away of the undulating and weak rays of the sun of winter time for those of Spring, which are more direct.
Some of the common Easter games dealing with beautifully painted eggs include a game known as "Cokatisja". This games is played like marbles except that instead of marbles, eggs are used. The boys roll them on the meadows. If an egg is cracked, then it belongs to the boy whose egg cracked it. [webmaster note: My family has a similar tradition, but instead of rolling the eggs, they are held and tapped against each other with the same result]
In many villages it is a custom to throw the shells of Easter eggs into the rivers and streams because that is supposed to make the geese and ducks fruitful. It should be remembered that an egg in pagan times symbolized fertility.
Another game played by the Carpatho-Rusyn youth is the one in which the girls hide the dyed eggs in their hands while the fellows try to take the eggs away from them. The victory of a fellow over a girl signified in pagan times, the victory of the spring sun over winter.
During the Easter holidays bells are rung almost constantly in the homeland. This is done because bell ringing is supposed to cause bees to swarm. It is a known fact, however, that metallic sounds do influence the bees.
In many of the villages in the province of Zemplin a game called "Kralovna" is played by the girls. In our language "Kralovna" means "Queen". Many girls dressed in their best finery form a long line and in rhythmic step, walk through the village for two hours at a time singing lovely songs about a pretty queen "kralovna". The refrain to the song is usually the melodious - "La, la,la,la, la...."
These songs have no connection whatsoever to the Resurrection of Our Lord. They have been traced to the story in Slavonic Mythology where Lala, son of goddess "Lada", with his queen and his retinue travelled throughout his domain to see how his people lived. The counterpart of Lala in Greek-Roman mythology is Cupid while that of Lada is Venus.
On a lovely Easter Sunday, any Carpatho-Rusyn village is picturesque. Everyone dressed in their best clothing is outdoors. The little boys can bee seen together in one group playing "Cokatisja" with their Easter eggs. The women are in another group talking about things that are of interest only to them, usually about cooking, sewing , or they are trying to predict who will be the first to get married after Easter. The men are also in a group by themselves discussing the spring plowing or the international situation. The young girls and the fellows are having a grand time together. Here and there can be seen young adolescents enthusiastically scheming how to best surprise some of the popular maidens on the next day and give them a good "polivanja." Occasionally the melodious strains of a violin or an accordion can be heard or the beautiful singing of the young people who have been restrained from singing for seven weeks because of Lent. It is, indeed, a beautiful sight to observe a Carpatho-Rusyn village on Easter Sunday. There is a happy spirit of joy which is experienced by everyone. Because of this, Easter is one of the happiest holy days in the native lands of our parents. The people await it with eagerness for many weeks.
On Easter Monday the men and young boys visit the homes of their friends where they throw water on the women usually on the hands. In doing do they say "Christos Voskres!" (Christ is Risen!) while the girls reply "Voistinu Voskres!" (Indeed - He is Risen!). Many times the young men like to have fun when they go "polivati" and go beyond the bounds. They probably will pour buckets of water on the girl or lead her to a well and give her a good soaking. Easter Tuesday is the time when the women take revenge on the men. That is their day for "polivanja". This custom is a very sociable one since it brings together the young people. Also as a result of it, enemies forget their differences and become friends. It is considered bad luck if a home is passed by during the "polivanja:.
This custom has been traced to the time when the Jews threw water on the followers of Christ who with joy were announcing the Resurrection of Our Saviour. This custom is also practiced because it is believed that the fresh water from the melted snow will give a beautiful complexion to people and also bring luck if it is poured during this "polivanja" of Easter time.
In some localities on Easter Monday after Vespers, the families visit the graves in the cemetery where relatives are buried.
Such are the colorful and picturesque Easter customs of the Carpatho-Rusyns. Although many of these customs originated in pagan times and have been carried over into Christianity, it does not mean that our people still have pagan ideas. They are observed because they make up the rich heritage of our people which has been handed down from generation to generation. These customs make up the rich folk culture of our people, which is probably richer, older, more unique and more colorful than that of any other nationality. Other nationalities have just begun to notice our folk culture and to study it.
After the midnight Paschal Liturgy, we all gather together to bless the Pascha baskets. These baskets have been carefully prepared with many of the foods from which we've been fasting for the past month and a half during Great Lent. There are several foods traditionally included in the basket. These are: a yeast bread, a bitter herb, wine, cheese, meat, butter, salt, and a red egg. Each has symbolic significance.
Sweet bread is always included, leavened with yeast. This is a symbol of the New Covenant; the Jews made unleavened bread, and we, the Children of the New Covenant, make leavened bread. Kulich is the traditional Russian bread, and Tsourekia is the traditional Greek braided bread. The braided form of this bread is a display of the Trinity.
The bitter herb, often horseradish or garlic, serves as a reminder of the first Passover (horseradish is eaten as a traditional part of the original Passover meal) and of the bitter sufferings which Christ endured for our sake. Sometimes the herb is colored red with beets, symbolizing the Blood of Christ. The bitter herb is also to bring to mind the Jews' forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Wine, cheese, and butter are figurative of all the good things of life, and remind us of the earthly gifts that come from God.
Meat is included in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Old Testament Passover, which has been replaced by Christ, the New Passover and Lamb of God.
Salt serves as a reminder to us that we are "the salt of the earth."
The red egg is likened to the tomb from which Christ arose. This is because of the miracle of new life which comes from the egg, just as Christ miraculously came forth from the tomb.
Thus each of the foods in the Pascha basket have rich meaning, as does everything in Orthodoxy. Glory to God!
Pascha in the Russian Orthodox Church
Pascha, or Easter, is a moveable feast. Its reckoning is according to the Julian (old) calendar which is used by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Pascha (or Paskha) is the highest celebration of the Orthodox Church. Russian Orthodox churches will herald in the glorious event with a service, beginning at midnight on Pascha Sunday. After the service, proclaiming Christ's Resurrection, Easter baskets are blessed and shared. This signifies the end of the Great Lent, a forty day period of fasting.
Holiday fare includes paska, which is adorned with crosses made of raisins. The Paska is served with Easter sweet bread, or kulich, which is accompanied by vividly colored hard boiled eggs. Red is symbolic of Easter and beauty. Thus, most of the colored eggs are red. The main course of the traditional Pascha dinner is lamb or ham. Easter is a holiday for visiting friends and relatives. The traditional greeting is, Christ is alive, to which one would respond, Christ is truly alive.
Maslenitsa The old Russian tradition of Maslenitsa precedes the Great Fast (Lent, in the West). It is eight days of eating, drinking, making merry and a carnival like atmosphere similar to Mardi Gras. Know also as Butter Week, this period is characterized by mass consumption of blini.
The Great Fast After Maslenitsa, the Great Fast commences. This is a mandatory fast of 40 days during which no animal products may be eaten. This includes red meat, fish, poultry, milk,cheese, eggs, butter, etc. In other words, this is a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, beans and grains. Entertainment is also forbidden with the exception of cultural and religious concerts and singing. As Palm Sunday approaches, a sense of anticipation and joy breaks through the long days of fasting.
Easter eggs are a major part of the Russian Easter celebration. As in pagan times, the egg symbolizes life and, to Christians, Salvation and Christ's Resurrection. Red dyed eggs are given to everyone as a gesture of love and wish for a good life. The hard boiled eggs are eaten and used in the traditional Easter bread.
During the Imperial days, the royal family would give colored and richly decorated eggs to the boyars and the nobility. In addition to chicken eggs, the practice of adorning wooden eggs began and became a part of Russian decorative and applied arts in its own right.
Easter Russian Orthodox Easter Sunday falls a week after Jewish Passover. This is a time of literal and spiritual cleansing. Spring cleaning and household repairs are accomplished and everyone looks forward to the traditional Easter feast. Holy Week, the week between the Palm Sunday celebration and the Saturday just prior to Easter, is a time of fasting, reflection and repentance. Good Friday, like elsewhere in the world, is the most somber day of this week.
Easter vigil, Saturday night, features a liturgy which climaxes at midnight. At this time, the darkened church is brought to life by the lighting of countless candles, church bells toll and the faithful pour out of the church, singing and praising Christ. Now, the feast begins! All kinds of meat; primarily ham and lamb; kulich, cakes, sweets - everything forbidden during the Great Fast is present on virtually every household table.
Our people say that anyone who dies at Pascha -- in the course of the entire week of Pascha -- will enter into Paradise, because at Pascha hell is closed, while the doors of Paradise remain open for everyone.
Therefore the Royal Doors are never shut in church at Pascha, in order that all might know that heaven is never so near to us as it is at Pascha.
Our people always thought that at Pascha Christ comes out of heaven with His Apostles, dressed in beggar's rags, to wander the whole world over, and that He comes to people's homes in the form of a wanderer [*strannik*] or a beggar, in order to test people's kind-heartedness.
That is why all of us prepare all sorts of viands in such abundance at Pascha -- *kulichi* [cylindrically-shaped Russian Paschal sweet-breads], *pascha* [delicate, sweet, and creamy pyramid-shaped "candied-cheese"], eggs and meat, in order to have an opportunity to treat anyone who might enter into our home; that is why, at Pascha, we rejoice at the visit of anyone and everyone, making no distinctions as to whether we might happen to like that person or not, and why we permit no one to leave without having been feted.
At Pascha, we remember with especial compassion that there are those in the world who are sick and unfortunate. Our people always took particular pity upon those who were in prison on Pascha night. Therefore, one must always send gifts on this day -- *kulich*, *pascha*, and a red egg -- to those ailing in hospitals, and to those incarcerated in gaols.
In olden days, our Tsar' would set off to the gaols on the first day of Pascha, in order to visit those imprisoned there, and would say to them: *"Khristos voskrese!"* ["Christ Is Risen!"], distributing to them gifts of *kulichi*, *pirogi* [pies], meat and eggs; while, simultaneously, in the royal palace all our destitute brethren were fed.
At Pascha, we go, as well, to exchange a Paschal kiss [*khristosovat'sya*] with the dead who lie in their graves. We go to the cemetery, place a red egg on each grave, and sing Paschal prayers, in order that the dead, too, might hear: *"Khristos voskrese!"*
Once upon a time, in the Kiev Caves, where many dead are buried, a priest loudly exclaimed during Paschal Mattins: *"Khristos voskrese!"* And suddenly... all the dead resoundingly replied to him: *"Voistinu voskrese!"* ["Truly He (Christ) Is Risen!"].
*Translated into English by G. Spruksts from the Russian text appearing in "Pravoslavnaya Rus'" ["Orthodox Rus'"], No. 7 (1556), 1/14 April 1996, p. 12. English-language translation copyright by The St. Stefan Of Perm' Guild, The Russian Cultural Heritage Society, and the Translator. All rights reserved.
The Paschal Sermon of St John Chrysostom
The Paschal sermon of St John Chrysostom is read aloud in every Orthodox parish on the morning of the Great and Holy Pascha of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
According to the Tradition of the Church, no one sits during the reading of St John's sermon, but all stand and listen with attentiveness.
If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.
(Rendered in stanza format by M.C. Steenberg. Please feel free to print, copy, distribute and post this text without need for written permission.)
What is a Radonitsa?
"On this day, the Tuesday of St. Thomas week, according to the order instituted by our Holy Fathers, we call to remembrance, in Paschal joy, all those who have died from the beginning of the ages in faith and in the hope of resurrection and life eternal.
"Having previously celebrated the radiant feast of Christ's glorious Resurrection, the faithful commemorate the dead today with the pious intent to share the great joy of this Pascha feast with those who have departed this life in the hope of their own resurrection. This is the same blessed joy with which the dead heard our Lord announce His victory over death when He descended into Hades, thus leading forth by the hand the righteous souls of the Old Covenant into Paradise. This is the same unhoped-for joy the Holy Myrrhbearing Women experienced when discovering the empty tomb and the undisturbed grave clothes. In addition, this is the same bright joy the Holy Apostles encountered in the Upper Room where Christ appeared though the doors were closed. In short, this feast is a kindred joy, to celebrate the luminous Resurrection with our Orthodox forefathers who have fallen asleep.
"There is evidence of the commemoration of the dead today in the writings of the Church Fathers. St. John Chrysostom mentions the commemoration of the dead performed on Tuesday of St. Thomas week in his "Homily on the Cemetery and the Cross."
"Today, the faithful departed are remembered in Divine Liturgies, 'koliva' is prepared and blessed in the churches in memory of those who have fallen asleep, and the Orthodox graves in cemeteries are blessed by the priests and visited by the faithful. On this day alms are given to the poor. Furthermore, it should be noted that due to the great spiritual joy this jubilant commemoration bears, it is called in the Slavonic tongue, 'Radonitsa,' or Day of Rejoicing."
>From the "Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Penecostarion" (published in 1999 by HDM Press, Rives Junction, Michigan) on "Radonitsa':
A note in the English-language edition of the Synaxarion says that the above account was written "by a monk who wished to remain annonymous." This acount does not appear in the Slavonic or Greek Pentecostaria.
The development of a special commemoration of the dead during Thomas Week is undoubtedly related closely to the fact that memorial services are prohibited by the Typicon from being served from Great Thursday through Thomas Sunday. Thus, in the entry for Holy and Great Thursday, the Typicon states: "It is fitting to know: That the Litia for the reposed does not take place in the narthex until Thomas Sunday." Then, in the entry for Monday of Thomas Week, the Typicon states at the end of the instructions for Matins and the First Hour: "And the usual Litia in the narthex." Thus, the begining of Thomas Week presents the first opportunity to commemorate the departed (other than at the Proskomidia) since the middle of Passion Week.
It is interesting to note that in the Typicon and Pentecostarion that are currently in use in the Russian Church, there is no specific mention of a commemoration of the dead on Tuesday of Thomas Week, and the services appointed for that day do not contain any requiem elements. Nonetheless, it is quite common to serve a General Panikhida in church on that day and also to serve Requiem Litias at the graves of the departed.
Their are many folk customs associated with Radonitsa. Perhaps other members of the Ustav List would like to share their knowledge and experience of these customs with us.
Text courtesy of Daniel Olson
Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down Death by death,
and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.
Though Thou didst descend into the grave, O Deathless One,
yet didst Thou annihilate the power of Hades and didst rise
again as conqueror, O Christ our God, announcing to the
myrrh-bearing women: Rejoice! giving peace unto Thine
Apostles, and bestowing Resurrection upon the fallen.