Christ is Risen!

Such is the victory cry of Orthodox Christians all over the world just after midnight on Easter morning. Christ’s victory over death and the key of the Christian faith everywhere is worth singing about. The Orthodox Community of Hawaii, better known as the “Church of the Iveron Icon of the Theotokos” is no exception.

Located at 931 Hausten Street, just a block away from University Avenue, this little mission parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) goes all the way through Lent and Holy Week commemorating and celebrating just like its mainland brethren and its ruling diocese on Geary Street in San Francisco.

Many of you are saying, “Huh?” Yes, on occasion the Orthodox Church has been called the best kept secret. They don’t proselytize, they just are. “In Hawaii?” Surprise! Actually, one of the first Orthodox services held in Hawaii was by Russian Clergy who disembarked for the service from a ship temporarily in port while passing the islands. That was a very, very long time ago. Hawaii was not a State, not a territory and not Christian.

Parish in purple.

The lenten period begins with the tables, icon stands and even the music stands draped in purple. The clergy’s vestments are as well. It stays this way for all of lent until Palm Sunday when the covers, and the Priest’s vestments, are changed to green for that day.

Basket of palm leaves tied to pussy willow branches with purple ribbon.An interesting thing about the Russian Orthodox Church is that something is different about those palm leaves, as you can see. In Russia there are no palm leaves. The only thing in bloom at this time of year is pussy willows. So, that’s what they used to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The tradition in Honolulu, and in San Francisco, is to have both palm leaves and pussy willows since there is access to both!

After Palm Sunday, the colors are changed to black for Holy Week.

HolyFridayOn Great and Holy Friday (aka Good Friday) the icon of the body of Christ is surrounded by flowers and venerated by the faithful during morning and evening services.

In addition to the usual services for Great and Holy Friday, the parish in Honolulu, in the typical Hawaiian style of ethnic blending, has seen fit to incorporate a couple of services from the Greek Orthodox tradition. One of those is the service of Lamentations which is done on Friday evening as well.

On Saturday night in anticipation of the midnight Resurrection service, people crowd into the small little parish and wait. Prayers are read and hymns are sung repeating the tragic events just one more time before the triumph. Because of the global time difference Honolulu is probably one of, if not THE, last places to celebrate the Holy Resurrection. The Church is in darkness and and all lights are extinguished.

A single candle light emerges Father leads the procession around outside the church.from the altar and is passed back to all the faithful who are now holding candles awaiting the flame to come their way. In Jerusalem several hours before, the Holy Fire presented itself in great glory.

Father, now vested in white, leads the procession of candle-holding parishioners around outside in a procession as he and the faithful sing,

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Inside, the covers have now all been changed to white. The service of the Resurrection is completed and is followed by Divine Liturgy.

Hawaiian BibleOn Sunday morning, the parishioners return to Church for Agape Vespers which includes the reading of the appropriate gospels in a variety of languages.

This year, the parish in Honolulu read the gospels in Slavonic, English, Chinese, German and, you got it, Hawaiian! The Reader of the parish made sure of that!

Here is our Hawaiian vocabulary word, or Word, for this past weekend: Na ‘Euanelio Hemolele, the inscription on Icon stand with Resurrection Icon and basket of blessed eggsthe book seen here, means The Holy Gospel. But, I know you knew that!

After the Agape Vespers (agape is Greek for love) the little Russian parish celebrates at its Agape Picnic. They celebrate with all of the meat, eggs, dairy products and non-lenten cuisine you can possibly handle!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Russian: Khristos Voskrese! Voistinu Voskrese!

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