Paschal Traditions

Our people say that anyone who dies at Pascha -- in the course of the entire week of Pascha -- will enter into Paradise, because at Pascha hell is closed, while the doors of Paradise remain open for everyone.

Therefore the Royal Doors are never shut in church at Pascha, in order that all might know that heaven is never so near to us as it is at Pascha.

Our people always thought that at Pascha Christ comes out of heaven with His Apostles, dressed in beggar's rags, to wander the whole world over, and that He comes to people's homes in the form of a wanderer [*strannik*] or a beggar, in order to test people's kind-heartedness.

That is why all of us prepare all sorts of viands in such abundance at Pascha -- *kulichi* [cylindrically-shaped Russian Paschal sweet-breads], *pascha* [delicate, sweet, and creamy pyramid-shaped "candied-cheese"], eggs and meat, in order to have an opportunity to treat anyone who might enter into our home; that is why, at Pascha, we rejoice at the visit of anyone and everyone, making no distinctions as to whether we might happen to like that person or not, and why we permit no one to leave without having been feted.

At Pascha, we remember with especial compassion that there are those in the world who are sick and unfortunate. Our people always took particular pity upon those who were in prison on Pascha night. Therefore, one must always send gifts on this day -- *kulich*, *pascha*, and a red egg -- to those ailing in hospitals, and to those incarcerated in gaols.

In olden days, our Tsar' would set off to the gaols on the first day of Pascha, in order to visit those imprisoned there, and would say to them: *"Khristos voskrese!"* ["Christ Is Risen!"], distributing to them gifts of *kulichi*, *pirogi* [pies], meat and eggs; while, simultaneously, in the royal palace all our destitute brethren were fed.

At Pascha, we go, as well, to exchange a Paschal kiss [*khristosovat'sya*] with the dead who lie in their graves. We go to the cemetery, place a red egg on each grave, and sing Paschal prayers, in order that the dead, too, might hear: *"Khristos voskrese!"*

Once upon a time, in the Kiev Caves, where many dead are buried, a priest loudly exclaimed during Paschal Mattins: *"Khristos voskrese!"* And suddenly... all the dead resoundingly replied to him: *"Voistinu voskrese!"* ["Truly He (Christ) Is Risen!"].

*Translated into English by G. Spruksts from the Russian text appearing in "Pravoslavnaya Rus'" ["Orthodox Rus'"], No. 7 (1556), 1/14 April 1996, p. 12. English-language translation copyright by The St. Stefan Of Perm' Guild, The Russian Cultural Heritage Society, and the Translator. All rights reserved.





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