I pray that everyone had a beauitful Easter celebration throughout the world. We have a tradition of saying, may God bless everyone in the world and then my children! It is heartwarming to know when others have felt the joy and brilliance of Christ's Resurrection
|Water Lilies from the Waihi Waterlily Gardens web page|
It was an honor to be among the first in the World to say the words Christos Anesti!... Christ is Risen!
Unusual as it is for us to celebrate Easter in the autumn, with the weather being so nice, and the flowers so many, the joyous herald was all the same . New Zealand has plants that bloom throughout the year. Here it is nearly winter, the equivalent to late October or early November in the northren hemisphere, and there is this lovely yellow flowered bushy plant growing right outside the front of the church. So nice to have such signs of hope and cheer at this time of the year.
I made a change in the design of the blog page. It looks less like Fiji, and more like New Zealand in the winter. Today a lot of fog settled in on this island country.
I have a little story to tell...
One day, one of our lovely parishioners came to us with a bag of these organic, green round things. We accepted them with a smile, and took the bag into the house. It was obvious that these were fruit, but they looked so unusual. Dark green skins, like an egg in its shape.
Father Paul was eager to try the "exotic" fruit. He called for the potato peeler, as he started up his computer and googled the words "exotic fruit". Not knowing what name to write he started looking at a web page of photos.
|The cross in the center looks very Byzantine|
He found it. The Feijoa.
High in folate, and vitamin C, it is a native of South America, and when it comes into its season, Kiwi's (and I do mean the people of New Zealand) get really excited.
So with the blooming of flowers, great weather, and the ripening of the late fall fruit, it didn't seem so fall-ish. God is good.
Palm Sunday had us wondering what the whole week might look like. You know how it goes sometimes, there are certain things that people take for granted. The details of Holy Week can be so.
We had heard that the kids all come out on Saturday of Lazarus to fold palms. But no one came. Then we heard that the palms were coming via one person. That never happened either. We were concerned that perhaps we were going to have to fold crosses out of the huge flax plants that grow at the side of the church yard.
The palms that you see pictured above were actually all done by one woman who is personally deeply dedicated to the church. It takes her 4 days to fold 100 palms, and she has been doing this for some time now.
The people of the parish with real zeal came out to make Holy Week more than just recognizable to us ex-pats from the USA. It was more than recognizable to everyone who came whether from Greece or Egypt or Romania or Russia. Holy Thursday was very intense with everyone trying their best to make it all like it should be. There were many positive sentiments expressed amongst the congregation.
|Holy Thursday, the wreath needed straightening.|
The Ladies came out to once again clean and decorate. Flowers were brought in by the buckets full. The men came to do their men's work.
Good Friday made beautiful by the people who came, felt completely familiar to my children. Even the comical events that occurred were a solace since they had seen this all before. The Royal Hours were read, home made strict lenten food, served by the same women during the breaks, captured the essence of the day as did the great anticipation.
In Fiji, where his Eminence had been until just two weeks before Easter, the monastic Father Thaddeus, along with Father Bartholomeos the Fijian Greek Orthodox Priest were there to lead the people in their second Easter celebrations as body of Christ. I hope to receive photos of their Easter celebration. For the prior two months His Eminence was there. He had told us that they were preparing to baptize at least 20 more Orthodox in the weeks before Holy Week. I am eager to find out just how many were baptized.
Then it was time to go out. Respectful and quiet. It was as it should be
Holy Saturday, with the chanting of Arise O God, also came that long awaited joy. Some of our parishioners who were there, saw the Holy Saturday Vesperal Liturgy for the first time.
|Father Paul blessing us with petals at the Proti Anastasi|
Chanting with my daughters and the chanters for the Holy Resurrection Liturgy, we blended our way of singing the feast day hymns with theirs. Plenty of people stayed until the end of the services. We were finished by 2 am.
The next morning, we celebrated with music and feasting and even a little Greek dancing (you can imagine how much my daughters miss that) downstairs in the community hall. The food was very good.
Even more poignant however...
As I mentioned, His Eminence came back from Fiji about a week or ten days before Easter. He has a lot of work to do there, and he always has a part of this team going with him to help with baptisms and weddings, and with the practical details of setting up a good foundation for the mission house.
In Labassa on his summer trip, I do believe that His Eminence, along with Father Bartholomeos, baptized about 40 people. Whole families came to the church and were baptized together, just as in apostolic times. The photos of the ministry going on in Fiji are all beautiful. I cannot choose which to post, however I should restrict to sharing just a few.
The selections below speak for themselves. I hope you will be able to see how much it means for us to be helping His Eminence in this part of the world.
|Before the Baptism|
|The men who will be baptized prepare the baptistry|
|Father Bartholomeos preparing the people for|
Holy Illumination. The roof was leaking onto his
back and vestments. The people however very focused.
|Chrismation. By this time the sun came out!|
|The Mission satellite in Labassa after the building of the sanctuary|
|Break time tapas for the clergy|
|Getting a blessing and a sweet|
|His Eminence, and Father Bartholomeos with one newly Baptized family|