Pascha is finished

Christ has risen, truly he has risen. This phrase was a constant during the final pascha services. I did not bring the kiddos to the service even though others did. In the end I found I had made the right choice since sleep after a certain time in the evening is no longer an option for me if I skip it past my bed time. Next year I will be better prepared for this as well. I think personally the service for the littles is way to long and I agree with some of the other members that it is something to be worked into. I will take them to the first part next year and then have them taken home and put to bed.

It was an experience how ever to participate. It was the trinity on a whole new level that I had never experienced before. It was literally a celebration of both Christs life, crucifixion, and his resurrection. It was one of the most beautiful services I have ever seen. It is a very hands on and lots of chanting and singing but its not just about that either. It was beautiful and peaceful, it brought me back to the whole reason I wanted to be an end of life midwife.

I know to the normal and daily observer of life it is what it is. Most people cant bring themselves to think about the end of things but Pascha is very much about the end and the beginning of the end as well as it is about the trinity. I found out later that they do a special service for the dead after they pass. To a non orthodox member it would seem morbid but to me I love the beautiful memorial services. I hope one day to be able to hold a memorial service for my Paro Papu and Paro Yai Yia. There kids should have done it but did not. Well, at least as far as I know.

Almost Done!

Here we are the last week of Pascha and incidentally the hardest week to fast. I however have a plan for next year and I think I will try an execute it little by little through out the rest of the year. I have been studying different types of diets and such because a lot of people don’t do the fast if they have certain medical issues like diabetes an intolerance to gluten. I watched a documentary a while a go where this man who was over wait wanted to cut meat and processed sugars and other foods out of his diet including fish and dairy. I am going do some research through out this year to see what grains and beans I can use to replace some of those meat proteins that we need. The food has to be tasty and it has to fallow guidelines of Pascha and lent season.

I know that if correctly planned as well I could hopefully make more of the daily services for the season as well. This week was the hardest because I have little ones who do not behave in weekly church so you can imagine me not wanting that stress daily. I need a break from chasing them around particularly my daughter who is three years old and has Downs Syndrome. She is cognitively behind about 6 months the average 3 and a half year old.

I have really like the evening services so far. I have only been to the daily Sunday services during the day. I really love greeting the new day in the evening. Liturgy is nice too but I like all the lit candles and the chants for those services. I wish I could be a chanter. I would like to be in the choir when my daughter is a bit older and behaves better.

We shall see what tonight and Saturday nights is like because I will be attending those and then my hubby said he was going to attend church on Sunday with us. I am super grateful for his support on this journey.

I have gained a lot from participating as much as I could. I have learned about forgiveness and sacrifice. It has most definitely changed my perspective of God and Christ. I have even got my oldest into praying at night before bed.

My Pascha as of the lasts few weeks.

I don’t know how Jesus did it but all I can say is, that its harder than it looks. Well maybe back in Jesus time it was easier because he did not have all that much of a diet to begin with. Also, he was going to die for us and he knew this right from the get go from how I understand it.

I did manage to keep from eating all meat except fish for the most part. I accidentally ate it in a garden salad and one other item (cant quite remember what it was right now). I have stayed away from olive oil and wine was harder than I thought. I did figure out why. When you don’t want something the devil wants you to want it more. Or you just want it more because we are human and not perfect and that is what we do.

I did learn that my hubby likes to also want me to want the things I shouldn’t have more. More or less to see how into this religion I am. He said he would do Holy Week and we will be doing it because I am preparing some vegan dishes for us to eat for that whole week. He wont have a choice because I am only cooking for Holy Week and God and the famn damly is just going to have to suck it up. Its hard to cook two types of food for a family. Not only that it costs even more money. We will be having chilly, potatoes of all sorts and types, beans and pasta. I am going make sure to have some snacks as well just to help curb the hungers in between meals.

I have spent less time on the social media and more time at church. I am hoping to be baptized by the end of the summer. I have really been enjoying church and so have the kids. I think the hardest part is picking out a god parent(s). Its hard because their are a lot of good candidates but you have to pick the right ones and they have to be in good standing with the church, and a few other things. So here is to getting through the rest of Pascha.

More to lent than was Expecting

All week I have been participating in what Orthodox Christians refer to as Clean Week. You are not allowed to eat meat, fish, dairy, oil, wine or any alcohol all together depending on who you ask. I started out strong in the beginning. I had attempted to fill my day with stuff to do and tasks to keep me from thinking about the bacon and eggs I had to cook for everyone else for breakfast. It was easy just saying no to cheese and creamer in my coffee.

I made salads and drank lots of water. I even cheated and had some soda since their was nothing about not eating any processed foods like chips and the like. I found myself finding ways to bend the rules just a bit. Tuesday I even told myself they didn’t have beer back in those days so I had a couple of beers. Wednesday night came around and I found myself sneaking a piece of meat off of my sons plate. Thursday we had gone to the store while the kids were in school and I made sure to get things I would eat for the rest of the lent season.

I had started out so good and I was determined to do the entire week clean in order to get closer to God. I even made a lentil soup which turned out really good but I had to freeze the other half in order not to waist it. Shaggy, my oldest even liked it. I had had such high hopes and also ironically I had stopped reading my lent book for a few days. I picked the book back up after my shameful acts of heresy.

I picked up the book and started to read yesterday while doing laundry and another light went off in my head after a couple of chapters. Light number one, its going to be a challenge in some ways. I had forgotten that the closer we get to God the more challenging things can become. I was still just going through the motions and not grasping the full concept. It was also explained to me through the book that if you do not normally do the lent season in full force on a regular it is not going to be easy to cut out all the foods.

Alexander Schmemann also suggests taking it a little at a time. Not getting hard on yourself if you make a mistake. He also makes other suggestions like, cutting out social media and TV. Or at least cutting it down. Reading a book and enjoying the silence. People don’t know how to be silent any more and it makes sense. Our society has made it OK to have back ground noise or a movie at our finger tips. I probably shouldn’t even be blogging but I am not going to be hard on myself this year.

He talked some more in his book about the communion and the debate as to whether or not you should take it if your only taking it during the lent season. The argument is one I know too well. Previously when I was LDS both my mom and my mother in law would offer up to take the kids to church because it would be good for them. I had made some compromises with religion and family because I thought that’s just what you do. I had a strong feeling come over me and I just couldn’t shake the thought of, how my kids would feel if they learned that according to the LDS faith I would not be able to be with them if they were not baptized in the church. I could not bare to have them feel bad, and since I am a big fan of not paying lip service here we are.

I realize my kids may not get baptized in orthodoxy either but at least they have the piece of mind that we are all held accountable for our own choices. I still may find myself accountable for them not getting baptized, I do pray that they choose to be baptized and be able to take communion with me. They live the life style with me by going to church and learning the gospel and praying.

What Schmemann says about the communion argument ultimately is that it gets miss interpreted. Its good to take communion and do confession as well. Communion is our way of asking God for forgiveness and you should do it as often as its presented to you but most people only participate during lent season. He explains that the reason for that is because the church in some places and in some ways has become more relaxed. Also the thought of only participating once a year has unfortunately become the norm in some places.

The biggest thing I have taken away from this week of fasting is this, it is OK to be human. We are supposed to make mistakes and learn from them so we can move on and get closer to God. The more I participate in church, lent, prayer, family etc. the easier it will become. If I take it slow and get stricter and stricter each week I might just make it to Pascha. Still I must keep in mind that I am only human. Next week I will be making some meals in advance. I got a book from the library on how to cook with grains. Currently I am soaking some wheat berries for lunch time.

First fast day after Meat Fair Sunday…..

This Morning as I awoke and got the kids ready for school I made my coffee and realized I had put creamer in it. At first I was like, dang I already broke fast. However I have this great little app on my phone. My parish priest had suggested to help remind me of the fast days and various other Orthodoxy things. Now, like I said in my previous blog post; fasting in orthodoxy does not mean not eating at all. You can still eat its just you have a limited menu. I looked up today’s fast day and realized I could eat everything but meat which includes chicken and other birds. However it does not include fish. So come to find out I was OK.

So in Alexander Schmemann’s book, which I am only reading a chapter a day since I have to also read other books on orthodoxy. He talks about the 5 weeks leading up to lent; he then talks about lent itself . He refers to Lent as “the bright sadness”. The sadness being sin and the brightness referring to the act of repentance through the forgiveness of god. He also talks about what the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian is referring to, which is a spiritual renewal.

I learned that Lent isn’t just meant for the Catechuman but also for the already baptized Christians. He mentions that Christians have fallen away from participating in the Lenten tradition. It was meant to bring us back to remind us in essence of who we are and our roots as Orthodox Christians. During Lent we sing the hymns of the martyrs because they gave up their literal lives because they believed and loved god so much.

So getting back to the fasting parts of this journey, I did go to the grocery store and buy some fish to kind of get me through the week. Also just a side note, I am the only Orthodox Catechuman in my house of 5. However my husband is going to attempt the fast as much as he can with me along with my kids.

For lunch today my kids ate left over ham soup and I ate some fish with rice. I am not going to be to strict with the little one’s since they are growing and they are not fans of the fish. My husband doesn’t like fish all that much ether so I will meat (see what I did there) them half way. Which just means I will make lunch with fish for me and eat more dairy and rabbit food at dinner.I will make them a heavier meat dish at dinner tonight. Something that they can have as left overs during this week. Since I have Monday School at church tonight It will probably be a pot roast. Also Monday school is on the Chatichumen so that will be very interesting for me.

I should note in this blog that I live in smaller city and our parish is also small. I am not sure yet if we do all the services of vespers, etc. I will inquire about that at a later date. I am also going to attempt to attend all the services of Lent as well. Here is to the journey and prayers for anyone else who is also starting on this Lenten Journey.

Here is the link to some of the sites I go to for information…..

Daily Readings App for iphone is the app I use with all the fast days and prayers in it. It also has some other great things included.