(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paște Ferecit! Happy Easter!

Last night as we walked to the Easter vigil, we could hear Gregorian chants, in beautiful male harmonies, from the Orthodox Cathedral two kilometers away.  Walking in the beautiful night air at 10:00, the haunting rhythms and harmonies of the chants created a mysterious, magical feel in the darkened streets.
We passed six churches on the way to the Central Plaza, and each one was either finishing their Easter vigil or getting ready.  Those leaving the Easter vigil carried lit candles with them on the street.  The streets were deserted except for families walking together to bring the light of Christ to their home.
We attended the Easter vigil of two churches, the Greco-Catholic and the Romanian Orthodox.  The Greco-Catholic Church in Romania comes from the Greek Byzantine Orthodox rite that came under Rome in 1687 with the Hapsburg conquest of Transylvania. Since these services began at 11:00 and midnight, respectively, Our son said we were "church-hopping instead of bar-hopping."  We planned to visit the Roman Catholic vigil in St. Michael's Cathedral, but the Greco-Catholic was filling up fast for the 11:00 service, so we took our seats. 
We sat in the dark sanctuary while the priests dressed in black robes chanted the liturgy.  After 20 minutes or so, the bishop and priests, dressed in white and gold vestments came out from behind the screen.  The bishop wore a jewelled Byzantine mitre --looked like a Byzantine crown--with cameos of the patron saints around the band.  The congregation prompted rose to the feet and exited the building.  The bishop and priests, carrying the icons, the bible, and several golden standards, flags and banners, followed the congregation outside to carry on more liturgy in the street. 
As the bishop and priests exited the building, the congregation gathered around them to light their candles.  Soon the entire area in front of the church was light by candelight.
After 20-30 minutes of more readings and chants, the bishop and priests, followed by the congregation, processed to the side of the church, following a waiting police car with flashing lights.  Next was a procession around the block--a very large and irregular block in the old medieval section--with everyone singing.  Police escorts were at each intersection to stop traffic as we passed by.  The lead priest carried a wooden board, probably 6 feet long, which he and the other priests banged in a rhythmic way for the entire procession.
When we returned to the front of the church, the bishop ceremoniously and loudly knocked on the front door with a wooden hammer three or four times.  Between each knock, the priests chanted some liturgy.  When the doors finally opened, every light was on in the church and all the lenten coverings had been removed from the statues and icons.  The Bishop turned to the congregation and said a liturgy welcoming everyone to the resurrection church.
We decided that at 12:30am, we needed to move to the Romanian Orthodox church, so we stayed on the plaza until we could discreetly slip away.  Down the block, another church was emptying out with their priests in white and golden vestments, so we stopped to watch their liturgy until they all processed around the corner. 
On to the Romanian Orthodox church. We got there for the sermon, lost interest, got cold, and decided that we had adequately welcomed Easter. 
Paște Ferecit!
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

No comments:

Post a Comment