I’m feeling light as a feather as I look through the few photos I have from Pascha (Orthodox Easter) last year at my spiritual home in New York, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection. I had been received as a catechumen only a few weeks earlier, and was anxious to finally experience the great Feast of Feasts as these strange Orthodox people celebrate it. The service began with the Midnight Office late at night on Holy Saturday, followed by a procession, the hours, the Divine Liturgy, and endless chanting and shouting of “Christ is risen! Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Христос воскресe!” well into the wee hours of Sunday, in the midst of a drunken and oblivious East Village. I left, sleepless but joyful like I’d never been, with a painted egg in my coat pocket and a candle that I ended up not lighting.
At the time, even as I prepared to be received into communion with the Orthodox Church (that happened finally on the Eve of the Nativity), my future in America was already uncertain for various reasons. When the time came to leave in late February—whether for good, I was still unsure—I lit that same candle in front of an icon of the Trinity and prayed that I would be back, if only temporarily, at my beloved home cathedral for Pascha. Thanks to the coronavirus, that was not going to happen, and nobody else was going to get to go either.
Of course, Pascha this year comes with many blessings as well (if you’re willing to look), despite the unusual circumstances, and maybe by next year I will get to look with some fondness at these photos I have now of my icon corner at home and the divine services through a computer screen; but right now, for my purposes here, they are just not that exciting. The sight of a gathered church gives me something to look forward to with great hope in these uncertain times.