The Holy Week Battle of Martha v. Mary within Me & the Big Day!

There were many moments I wanted to blog about during Holy Week and thought I could squeeze in "microposts" but there was literally no time. We attended many services - as we were told to do by our priest as we were Catechumens and needed to experience as much as possible leading up to our Baptisms. As is my custom on Kassiblog, here is a great big one for you! 

I found myself completely overwhelmed, not with the spiritual aspects (although there might have been some of that), but more with the material aspects, the physical ones. The chores, duties, preparations. The wrong things. But many blessings came as well and we could see God working things out. 

Wednesday, Toby and I began our shopping for the holiday at Total Wine and Central Market. We were really feeling the fast and looking forward to the celebrations. It was raining nearly the entire time, which we've grown quite sick of, but we made the best of it. We can turn even mundane tasks into a fun outing, which is one of the things I love most about us. As we were checking out at Central Market, it was still raining, but the sky turned a brilliant pink and the black birds were very actively and loudly getting ready for bed. I took a couple of photos (and a video which I can't seem to post because it's not on YouTube, which is one thing Im' not keen on with Blogger).

Once home, I attempted to make red Russian Orthodox eggs, which I mentioned in my last post, while Toby and the children made our traditional Easter Pascha eggs. I tried to dye an entire pot of 3 dozen eggs. They seemed to come out alright at first. But by the morning, they were pink. Hot. Pink.  

After 3 or 4 entire bottles of red food coloring; it
looked promising, but it was not to be.
Contrast the center egg at the top with those around it. Trust me, they turned pink over night.

Being that this was my first attempt at this and other, more experienced Russian Orthodox would be there, I did not want to make a mistake and bring the wrong thing. Every blog post I saw showed perfectly deep red, unblemished eggs. Surely, this was how they all did it. I could not fail at this. I actually went to our local supermarket for yet more red food coloring at 11 p.m. at night only to have a scare by an unfortunate homeless person I didn't even notice until I was right next to him. I was not being aware of my surroundings. 

Thursday morning, it also occurred to me that maybe people eat these eggs and I'd left them to dry all night. Being a bit OCD about the risk of food poisoning, I texted a lady at our parish to inquire. Yes, people eat them. Oh, dear. Not only were they pink, they were inedible. I would definitely have to redo them. 

I woke up a bit late, having babysat the eggs too late into the evening, and I rushed to get our eldest to his class at 8:30 a.m. I did not have time to finish putting my make-up on and I never go out without it. I thought I should come back home, finish getting dressed, then head back out. Once out, I realized that was a total waste of time and stopped at CVS for a few items to tide me over, only to realize I was actually at Walgreen's. I was in quite the busy, hurried state. I finished putting my make-up on in the car and then headed to Whole Foods to get a few things I could not get at Central Market the night before - including our Easter Pascha Ham. I decided that although we were going to have our Pascha Feast with the parish on Sunday afternoon, I'd make our usual feast here at home (with leftovers!) on Bright Monday. (The week after Pascha is called "Bright Week" and we do not fast!) 

As I was driving, I said my Jesus Prayer, which I really do love. I needed to calm myself. Other anxieties were taking over and I could not have this dampen our Holy Week. I knew that spiritual attacks sometimes come at these times and I needed to try to avoid that here. I needed to recenter myself. 

One thing that my beloved Toby has taught me is to try to take in things each day - especially nature. As I've mentioned, he's an avid photographer. We also adore Firewheels. I mean obsessively try to spot them, photograph them, follow their growth from spring to summer (and even into fall). We even planted our own Firewheel garden one year in our backyard and then Toby pressed and dried them and made a neat piece of artwork with them. This year, hoping to recapture that, I bought a large assortment of various Firewheels to be planted in our some point in the future when Dallas remembers it is not Seattle. 

Fruits from our inaugural Firewheel garden, faded now, but still beautiful. 

Toby has often commented on how I have almost a supernatural ability to spot Firewheels even as we're zipping down the highway. Thursday was no exception. As I drove across Plano, praying, mind busy, stressed, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted some. I did a quick u-turn and found a place to park. This was it! I was not going to miss out on this opportunity to take a moment and appreciate nature and God's splendor. We had thought that they were not out yet in our area. I'd seen thick patches of them in North Austin earlier this month as I was leaving the Capitol, but I've not seen many here. Suddenly, there they were. On Holy Thursday. I carefully crossed a six-lane street and took these pictures. 

I was so excited! I sent them to Toby and wished we had time to take a walk that morning. We love to take walks in nature and take pictures. We have not had enough of that given the torrential rains we've had all this year and seemingly last year. I was pleased with myself for taking a moment. 

Then it was back to my mission. As I got to Whole Foods, the first thing that greeted me were herbs. I bought herbs over a month ago with the intention of resurrecting my herb garden. But with our limited time and the rains when we do have time - like every. single. weekend. - I've not been able to plant them. A few have died. But I am still determined that at some point, I will plant the remnants. One thing I've not been able to find is onion chives. Every place sells only garlic chives, which I do not like. Alas! Here they were.

Would you believe I just realized that I bought one onion chive plant and one garlic chive plant?! 

I made it inside and was on a quest to find tulips. My late night foray to Tom Thumb, which had had beautiful tulips that I would not buy as it was too early, had only the same tulips which were past their prime. I needed fresh tulips with tightly closed buds so they'd open in time and be fresh for us on Pascha. I circled and circled the floral department at Whole Foods and only found these which were already on their way out. 

Novelty Tulips; but I wanted fresh and "regular" ones.

I was lamenting the fact that other Christians celebrate Easter a week earlier and that it was hard to buy ahead for everything since stores get rid of things associated with a particular celebration almost immediately while some things will spoil and have to be purchased last minute, when out comes the lady in the floral department with fresh tulips just off the truck! As Toby and I say #workingout and indeed it was! 

I gathered up six bunches and put them in my cart immediately. 

They were quite perfect!

Later, I'd turn them into four arrangements while Toby was cleaning up the kitchen late on Friday night.

I gathered up a few more things we needed, picked up Augie, then headed home to tackle those red Russian Orthodox eggs. I'm happy to say that I did it! I dyed them individually, at Toby's suggestion, dried them with paper towels, and then read about polishing them with olive oil. This is how they turned out.

I posted about the eggs on Facebook and my new friends from our parish informed me that "red" was, in fact, in quotation marks and that pink and even coral eggs were totally acceptable. Good to know.  😂 I've made mental note for next year.

Also, on Thursday, our Pascha basket cover came in, which I also mentioned in my last post. It came with the most lovely note and two woven bookmarks which I take it are customary in Orthodoxy as we've acquired a few. This is what Mrs. Cheryl wrote to us - how kind is that?

It was much appreciated. 

Here is what it looked like on our Pascha basket and the contents of that which is such a fun tradition! 

Full Disclosure: We were not as compliant with the strict fasting requirements
of Great Lent as this might imply. Nevertheless, we did a good bit more than
we initially planned to, esp. the first and last weeks of it. We felt it. Next year,
we will do even more!

In between all of this, we attended many beautiful, meaningful services leading up to the big day - our baptisms and confirmations on Saturday with the Vesperal Divine Liturgy in the morning and then the Pascha Divine Liturgy (that begins with Vespers and Matins that go for about two hours before the Liturgy begins).

Friday's evening service commemorated the death of Jesus and we processed around the church with a depiction of Christ having passed away which is in iconography style on a tapestry. The church had a tomb there and a few of the men - all Catechumens, including my husband - carried it for a bit and then switched out with others. It's a very solemn thing. I took a few pictures.

Then Saturday morning arrived and we began talking about Christ's resurrection during the Vesperal Divine Liturgy where seven of us were baptized and received into the Orthodox Church. Toby and I really love our fellow Catechumens - now the "newly Illumined" - and we have all benefited in so many ways from this process. In time, perhaps I'll write more about that.

I don't have all of the pictures that were taken yet, but here are a few that a friend of ours took. Anthony was so nervous about his baptism but he did great and was very pleased with himself. The Orthodox baptize by full immersion three times - just as St. John the Baptist did.

I really like this shot of the "trough" we were baptized in.
That's what Father calls it. I'm sure there's a technical name for it.

Here is our sweet Anthony. He thought the water was cold. He can be a bit shy
and he was well aware that all eyes were on him. He managed his fear very well.
Toby and I were right beside him - dripping. He was very excited to become Orthodox.
He has wisdom beyond his years in such matters. 

Here we all are, post-baptism and in our baptismal robes.

This is the back of our robes. All of them matched.
We will wear them for the first three times we Commune. 

Here is our Catechumen Pascha Class of 2019 as we were jokingly called by one of our friends.
There are two or three more who will soon become Catechumens
and then work toward their baptisms and confirmations. It is a very exiting time at our parish. 

Later that night, about 11:00 p.m. we returned for the Pascha Liturgy and prayers. I'm not going to lie. It was exhausting. We finished about 3:00 a.m. and would have stayed later had Anthony not reached his sell by date. He was beyond exhausted. We'd been on our feet for many hours throughout the week and traveled back and forth many times. We live about 25 miles from our parish and we drove back and forth three times on Friday alone (we did not take the children to every service as we did not want to wear them out). This in addition to the shopping, cleaning, preparing we also did at home and the emotional and spiritual stresses that naturally come with such a momentous event in one's life. But it was beautiful and we are truly home. We have been so welcomed at our parish and we love our new friends, our priests, the Liturgy, the prayer life, the writings, and we are embracing the fasting and asceticism more and more. Everyone is in a different place. The point is to grow and push yourself continually toward spiritual perfection, but not to the breaking point. There are many things each of us has to work out and many passions (sins) and temptations we have to master. It is a lifelong process. But a worthwhile and necessary one. There are no shortcuts.

This was a very long post but there was much I wanted to share. In the end, I hope I found the right balance between Martha and Mary, but it will be a challenge for me for some time to come.

A blessed Pascha season to you all! 

Christ is risen!
Truly He is risen!

Thanks for reading!