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This afternoon, at the vesperal liturgy, Father Matthew scattered bay leaves around the church, an Orthodox custom symbolizing Christ’s harrowing of Hell on Holy Saturday. Holy Week in Orthodoxy is so liturgically and sensually intense. I was exhausted at the services this afternoon, but it was a good tired, and prayer came easily.

At the conclusion of the liturgy, Father Matthew blessed the artos loaves with holy water; they’re a symbol of the resurrected Christ’s presence among the disciples — and here, a sign that Pascha is almost here:

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I love this beautiful bowl in which the holy water rested today:

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The bread is sweet and yeasty, and has wine baked into it. It is sliced after blessing, and placed on a table in the church with nuts and dried fruit. This is a Holy Saturday afternoon custom from the ancient church, when the faithful would remain in church until the Paschal liturgy. The food was there to sustain them until the Paschal liturgy later that night. Here are a couple of shots I like:

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We are all off in a moment to Pascha. After the liturgy, it will be about 2:30 a.m., and the entire parish will be drinking wine and eating cheese and meat and saying, “Christ is risen!” until not too long before daylight. I am bringing sushi, cold roast chicken, and sparkling wine from Burgundy. We all share, and we’re all happy together. I love my little parish, St. John Mission, and can’t imagine life without it. I hope you feel that way about your church too, wherever you are. A blessed Easter to you all.

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