16 April 2009

An Eastern Easter

Easter really is my most favorite holiday.  I had a great weekend celebrating it with my Slovak almost-family near Trebišov, in the lands close to Hungary where there were once perhaps more Rusyns but now it's completely Slovak -- except that like certain places in Italy (for example), very few people identify with the nation and instead identify with the region -- creating a nation within a nation, one in which people excuse their lack of nationalism by beautifully and openly explaining how ethnically-mixed the area has always been.  At the risk of over-using this idea, it really is true that the capital of Eastern Slovakia lies somewhere vaguely in America.  Whereas elsewhere in Slovakia Hungarians are openly loathed, down in the southeast the bread comes from Hungary -- and in a somewhat ironic development, the Hungarian-made bread now comes in Slovak-language breadbags.     I had a lovely few days of hearing the hutorak dialect almost exclusively, which is closely related to Rusyn and also like Rusyn is much softer and earthier sounding than pure Slovak.
So the (Eastern Slovaks)(earliest Slovakized Rusyns)(Zemplin people) are related to Rusyns via Greek Catholicness -- this is something that needs to be explored further, and my feeling is that the missing link can be found not in Slovakia but rather in Vojvodina...

Most notably, this was the first Easter in my 23 years that was liturgically correct -- which I will now describe.  I got down to Zemplinský kraj on Friday at about noon, and we had vespers at about 5 with the procession around the church -- not unusual at all.  If I might make the case here for dramatically changing the way things are done in most American Ruthenian Rite parishes, I would say simply that doing things the 'right' way makes the most sense and actually allows for everyone to get all of their prep work done.  Saturday, there were no church services until vespers and St. Basil Liturgy around 5 (plenty of time for cooking all day)(and also, not vespers and St. Basil Liturgy on Saturday morning), and then that was it.  Correctly, the body was still in the tomb until Sunday morning -- there was no preemptive Saturday night resurrecting.

Icon of the Myrrh-Bearing Women

The true highlight came at 5am Sunday morning, with the real thing -- Sunrise Matins during the actual sunrise!  Seriously, it was quite excellent because the candles were actually useful during the procession at that hour and then by the end the whole church was filled with bright natural light.  We came home, had breakfast, and had plenty of time to get the basket put together in time for liturgy at 10am.  In the village, you can totally tell who's Roman Catholic and who's Greek Catholic, because not only are people coming and going to their respective churches at slightly different times, but also because the Roman Catholics understand the greeting of "Christos Voskrese" but don't respond to it very enthusiastically.  Right after liturgy, we all went outside to the front of the church and the priest blessed the baskets and then we went home to promptly eat the contents.  Most people who know my MO know that I'm not a particularly early riser normally, so I kind of conked out after lunch and didn't go to vespers at 3pm.  Monday morning was liturgy, and afterwards small groups of young males were going around dousing females -- though I was spared.  More or less, to sum up, doing things correctly = most common sensical.  I would also make the comment here that the singing of "Christos Voskrese" was alternated in Church Slavonic and Slovak pretty much in the same way that we alternate between Church Slavonic and English in America.

I didn't really take any pictures, because I was really in the moment, but really, for those who are familiar with how we do it in America, it's quite similar -- with the exception of language and Saturday Night Live, things haven't changed much in the last ±100 years we've been in America.  It also turns out that the people look quite similar and have many of the same names.  So imagine all the familiar scenes I've described, with bright sunshine outside.

For those who may not be familiar, here's a video of highlights from the Rusyn village of Torysky in 2006:
NB: Many of the older ladies who still wear scarves outside the house ditch the 
normal dark colors for brighter ones on Easter.

There's tons more people there, and it's a different region, but you get a good idea.

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