A different Easter
I attended the Easter mass, at a small church located in a equally small village. Although I can’t say I’m much of a church goer, this time I went purely out of curiosity, to see what’s going on.
In order to skip most of the lengthy service, a few hours long, my girlfriend and I left home close to midnight, just in time to get light (a Easter ritual that consists of lighting one’s candle from the priests’) and hurry back in order to eat dishes previously unavailable because of the fasting period. That really wasn’t my case, I don’t fast either.
The road to the church, although short, was in itself a small adventure, because of the fact that is was muddy – due to the last few day of uninterrupted rain. Lucky me – I had a flashlight function on my phone, which helped me tremendously to maneuver through the muddy puddles with great success.
Getting there, I realized that the rain was also responsible for the low attendance, especially in comparison to the last year. The church was full though, the mass was under way and, if you are someone like me, who doesn’t cross himself much and prefers to observe, it’s always an interesting experience.
Young people – especially teenagers – made up about three quarters of the flock, and I discovered that they weren’t there for religious purposes, they were there to socialize. The reason why I say that is because they were laughing, talking to each other, and the boys didn’t waste any time, and initiated conversations with as many girls as possible, transforming the church into a place for picking up girls just like any other.
At midnight, when the priest said to the people to come and get light, the relative quietness became a continuous whispering, which grew in intensity steadily. The crowd compacted, making its way to the altar to get light directly from the preacher. The restlessness and commotion, as well as the pushing and shoving, made me realize that what was happening didn’t have anything to do with religion, and more to do with customs and tradition.
I exited the church, waiting on the first people with lit candles to come out and light my candle. So did two old women from the village, carrying a table. The service was to be continued outside, and little by little the church emptied, following the minister and the cantors.
Although outside were 10 degrees C, the priest’s face was full of sweat. I knew him for one or two years, when he came to bless the house and I refused to kiss the icon that he was carrying. He gained a few pounds since then, 60-70 in my estimation. While he was chanting and waving the cense, his wide textile girdle kept falling down below the waist, and he made considerable effort to lift it in its place over and over again. The light wasn’t very good either, and one of the old women rushed to his aid, with a flashlight.
It was clear as day (although it was night) that the woman in question was part of the volunteering squad’s management, because she did everything in her power to make the minister’s life easier and to make sure that everything is going according to plan.
I say management because she gave instructions to two other old women, she was observing the audience and signal to whoever didn’t cross himself (especially young people), and, when my girlfriend went to say hi to a teacher she knew and hadn’t seen for a long time, the old woman shushed her.
In front of me appeared out of nowhere two little boys, and got so close to my candle that I had to take a step back. They too were observing the crowd, just like me, the difference being that they were trying to imitate what others were doing. The results were not very good, especially when they crossed themselves. The crosses were far from perfect, ending up two or three – cornered instead of four, and the vertical part wasn’t perpendicular on the horizontal.
The crosses were probably the reason why one of the dropped his candle, which went out. Ashamed, he looked around to see if anyone noticed. Of course, everyone noticed. Including one of the old women, who rushed to relight it. All on a background of religious songs, during which the cantors rushed somewhat, leaving the priest behind and forcing him to catch up.
At some point, one of the cantors disappeared, but I quickly realized where he went, because of the deafening sound of the huge bell of the church, which made all of us twitch.
To my satisfaction, the mass held outside only lasted 15-20 minutes. I’m saying “to my satisfaction” because my candle didn’t have any cover for the wind, it was classic and it was getting smaller by the minute. It decreased in size from 20 cm to a tiny 5. This fact made me rush home, and when I arrived at the door the candle was only 1 cm long.
The flock dispersed also, some by foot, others by car, the young people socializing and laughing, the boys chasing the girls, probably rushing to the parties which were a common thing on Easter night. After all, it was a reason for celebration, wasn’t it?
Un Paste diferit
Am fost la slujba de Paste, la o biserica mica dintr-un sat la fel de mic. Desi nu pot sa zic ca frecventez bisericile, de data asta am fost mai mult de curiozitate, sa vad ce se mai intampla.
Pentru a nu asista la cele cateva ore de slujba, eu si prietena mea am plecat de acasa aproape de miezul noptii, la timp pentru a lua lumina si a pleca inapoi pentru a ne indestula cu mancarea de dulce.
Drumul pana acolo, desi scurt, a fost o mica aventura, deoarece plouase de cateva zile in continuu si era plin de noroi. Norocul meu ca avem o functie de lantern pe telefon, care m-a ajutat enorm sa evit obstacolele noroioase si baltile.
Ploaia se pare ca a afectat si numarul de participanti, care era destul de scazut in comparatie cu alti ani. Biserica era totusi plina, slujba era in desfasurare, si, daca esti o persoana ca mine care nu prea se inchina si prefera sa observe ce e in jur, e mereu o experienta interesanta.
Trei sferturi erau tineri, care veneau in special sa socializeze si mai putin din motive religioase. Motivul pentru care spun asta este ca radeau, vorbeau unii cu altii, iar baietii nu pierdeau timpul si salutau cat mai multe fete cu putinta, transformand lacasul de cult intr-un loc de agatat ca oricare altul.
La 12 noaptea, cand preotul a anuntat ca se poate lua lumina, in biserica linistea s-a transformat intr-un zumzait agitat, randurile s-au strans, iar multimea s-a compactat, inghesuindu-se sa aprinda lumanarile pe cat posibil direct de la preot. Agitatia si galagia oamenilor, precum si datul din coate m-a facut sa realizez ca ce se intampla acolo nu prea avea legatura cu religia, ci mai mult cu traditia.
Am iesit, asteptand primii oameni cu lumanari aprinse de la care sa luam lumina, si la fel au facut doua femei in varsta, cu basmale, carand o masa. Slujba urma sa se continue afara, si enoriasii au iesit incet-incet cu totii afara, urmand preotul si dascalii.
Desi erau 10 grade afara, preotul transpirase pe toata fata. Il stiam pe preot, pentru ca in urma cu 1 an-2 venise sa sfinteasca casa si refuzasem sa pup icoana. Dar, spre deosebire de anii trecuti, luase putin in greutate, dupa dimensiuni apreciez cam 30-40 kg in plus. In timp ce canta si dadea din cadelnita ii tot cadea braul lat din material textil de pe burta, si facea eforturi considerabile sa si-l ridice. Nici lumina nu era prea buna afara, lumanarile nu erau suficiente, iar una din femeile cu basma i-a sarit rapid in ajutor, cu o lanterna.
Se vedea de la o posta ca femeia in cauza facea parte din conducerea echipei de voluntare, pentru ca aranja tot ce se putea in asa fel incat preotului sa-i fie mai usor si pentru ca totul sa se desfasoare conform aranjamentelor.
Zic din conducere pentru ca dadea instructiuni altor 2 femei cu basma, observa audienta si facea semn celor ce nu isi faceau cruce, iar, cand prietena mea s-a dus sa salute o profesoara din sat pe care nu o mai vazuse de mult timp, i-a atras atentia sa faca liniste ducand degetul la buze si facand un zgomot specific.
In fata mea s-au asezat doi baietei, si s-au apropiat asa de mult incat a trebuit sa ma dau un pas in spate, altfel ceara de la lumanarea mea le-ar fi curs pe glugi.
Si ei observau multimea, ca si mine, diferenta esentiala dintre noi fiind ca ei incercau sa imite ce faceau ceilalti oameni. De aceea, crucile pe care si le faceau nu erau printre cele mai reusite, unele avand doar doua sau trei colturi in loc de patru, iar altele erau facute cu palma, in graba. Nu mai zic ca partea verticala nu era nici pe departe perpendiculara pe orizontala, cum ar fi trebuit.
Crucile au fost probabil motivul pentru care unuia i-a cazut lumanarea din mana si s-a stins. Rusinat, copilul s-a uitat in jur sa vada daca l-a vazut cineva. Si il vazuse. Toata lumea. Inclusiv una din femeile cu basma, care se pare ca observa totul din jur. Asa ca s-a grabit spre el si i-a reaprins-o. Totul pe un fundal de cantece religioase, in care pe alocuri dascalii grabeau tonul si o luau inaintea preotului, fortandu-l pe acesta sa se grabeasca sa-i prinda din urma.
La un moment dat unul din dascali a disparut, insa mi-am dat seama repede unde se dusese, dupa zgomotul asurzitor al clopotului din curtea bisericii, care ne-a facut pe toti sa sarim ca arsi si sa ne clantane dintii in gura.
Spre multumirea mea, slujba de afara nu a durat mai mult de 15-20 minute. De ce spun asta? Nu aveam o lumanare cu pahar, ci clasica, si, pe langa faptul ca era sa fie stinsa de cateva ori de vant, era pe terminate, ajungand de la dimensiunea de 20 cm la minuscula dimensiune de 5 cm. Asta m-a facut sa grabesc pasul spre casa, iar cand am ajuns in sfarsit la usa lumanarea nu avea mai mult de 1 cm.
Si multimea de la biserica s-a dispersat, unii in masini, altii pe jos, iar tinerii socializand si razand, baietii alergand fetele si grabindu-se probabil spre petrecerile ce urmau noptii de inviere. La urma urmei, e prilej de sarbatorire, nu?
Boys and girls generally don’t need any reason to “celebrate”. They’ll celebrate anything – “Yay! It’s Friday night! Let’s celebrate!!”
Faith is the belief in something that isn’t necessarily provable. Faith gives solace and comfort to those who believe.Although I would be considered a “non – believer” I still maintain the utmost respect for those who choose a more traditional path for spiritual enlightenment. Spirituality and faith reinforce our feelings of hope and without hope we would lose the will to live.This I believe is one of the major components of most, if not all religions.
In all due respect, it’s “Mass”, not “mess”. Once might be a typographical error, but twice? Talk about a Freudian slip! One would not have to read deeply between the lines to know how you felt about this particular Easter Mass.
Welcome back, Daniel 🙂
And thanks for the correction, it was not twice, but three times. On my way to fix it. Feel free to correct me in the future, also. Have a great evening. R.
Pardon these minor suggestions:
Although technically you are correct in using the word “cantor” as one who leads singers within a church setting, it is mostly associated with the Jewish religion within the setting of a Synagogue. Also, I believe you meant “incense” instead of “cense” as was written.
Whether ones faith is “right” or “wrong” is not for you or I to decide since it is a highly personal subjective choice made by those who believe. Traditions (whether practiced by you or I or not) in part pays homage to both the group’s and individual’s forefathers as well as providing for many a strong sense of personal security and comfort, especially during the inevitable trying times that occur in everyone’s lives.
Socialization within a religious function may not be viewed as being an appropriate venue for those with strictly conservative ideologies, but it remains an integral part of all religions. I believe that within reason most would agree that this would be a great asset in maintaining a feeling of unity among those who gather together to celebrate their faith within a group setting. Though perhaps annoying to some the relative immaturity of the youths mentioned might just be par for the course, that is, more often than not, “kids will be kids”.
For the record though i have to personally agree with the overall tone of your piece – the purposes of all organized religions as a whole escapes me in regard to being in touch with my inner spiritual compass, a “compass” that helps provide a basis for my moral and ethical directions of future actions I have yet to undertake. My undefined spirituality is at the core of my being, providing a figurative GPS of which road I am bound to traverse until my (and all others) final destination of death is ultimately reached.
Hey again Daniel. The setting was an orthodox church, so, if you have a better suggestion for “cantor”, feel free to say it. What I meant by “cense” was the actual instrument that holds the incense, held and agitated backward and forward by the priest, made of metal, that looks like a chain with a container at the end of it and where the incense is burning. Couldn’t find a better term – again please feel free to suggest a better term. Also, I don’t recall saying that religion is right or wrong – tell me which paragraph are you referring to.
Thank you for agreeing with my article overall.
Thank you. I stand corrected on both accounts. I too cannot think of better terms than the the two that you used within the context of your writing. You are also correct in stating that you never gave a definitive value judgement in regard to any religion. I’m really sorry if my writing suggested otherwise.
I suppose what I was responding to was the fact that for various reasons it seemed that you were less than satisfied with the service as a whole. I can certainly empathize with you if this was the case. Having been born and raised a Roman Catholic I can still remember as a child kneeling on hard wooden pews for the better part of two hours with a Mass spoken entirely in Latin. Although the words were in Latin they may as well have been in Greek and my heaven bound prayers weren’t for the salvation of my soul, but rather for the interminable Mass to finally end.
Would it be fair to suggest then that perhaps the Mass may not have lived up to the expectations inherent in your own spiritual beliefs? Regardless, your piece has inspired readers such as myself to pause, think, reflect and as in my case, even write in to respond. Even if this was a partial goal in your motivation for writing, know that it was met with a resounding success. There are few thoughtful writers of your caliber and I wish you the best in the continuation in all of your future endeavors.
Dan, you’ve made my day and I thank you for your unbelievably kind words. You are one of those special people who are not afraid to expose their soul, and for that, I honor you.
The truth is that I had no expectations of the service, so I didn’t feel disappointed. I was only there to observe. Christian beliefs have been a big part of my teenage life, but now I have a better understanding of how the universe works. I can certainly get the pain you must have felt when you stood on your knees for two hours, and that is a part of religion I would never understand or want to understand, along with the Inquisition and “the fear of God”.
It is for people like you that I’m writing for, and it is for a reply like your that I am hoping for, along with the exceptional feeling of having helped someone to pause, reflect and look inwards. Please notice the tone in your very first reply to one of my articles months ago and the tone in this reply. It’s a huge difference, and that means that you’ve let me, by means of my articles, get inside your heart. You can’t imagine how happy I am.
Can I have your permission to use some of this reply as a testimonial and post it on the website? You can send me one of your pictures to my email address if you’d like, to attach it to the testimonial. Thank you again.
Your warm words were welcomed on this cold and windy Philadelphia morning. Of course you may use any or all of my words as you see fit for your column. I’m flattered that you asked.Being a relative novice to the computer (and all things “high tech” for that matter) I’m not certain how to add an attachment of a personal picture of myself. That being said, your welcome to use any picture of mine that I have on Facebook as you see fit.My log in name is: spitzboo2
Hope your day’s a good one!