The egg figures prominently in creation stories, faith rituals and certainly in the colorful folk traditions of Easter eggs. Customs that most beautifully portray both Christian resurrection beliefs and the intricate details of Ukrainian decorated eggs are found in the Paska celebrations of St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church (http://stmichaeltucson.org/site/Home.html).
St. Michael’s tiny congregation (which regularly participates in the October Tucson Meet Yourself festival with demonstrations, displays and Ukrainian folk arts children’s activities) welcomes visitors to its regular liturgies as well as to viewing the Pascha (Easter Sunday) ceremony, which is a joyous celebration of parish life.
According to St. Michael’s pastor, The Right Reverend Mitred Protopresbyter Andriy Chirovsky, S.Th.D., song is embedded in all liturgy, however the only musical instrument used is the human voice, with services sung a cappella in four-part harmony.
For the Great and Holy (Good) Friday prior to Easter, a shroud, from Ukraine, is carried around the outside of the church three times, before being placed in a symbolic tomb (an angled table surrounded by flowers and candles) that is erected by parishioners in the center of the church.
The Easter Sunday Paska celebration is symbolic of Christians being led out of the slavery of sin, and is marked by songs, shouts (100 times) that “Christ is risen,” and the ringing of bells, many of which include personal bells of parishioners, to add to the joy of the experience. Celebrants dressed in white vestments begin the ceremonies with a procession of parishioners three times around the church. After the procession, the sign of cross blesses and opens the doors for morning prayer and Eucharistic liturgy. After the Paska liturgy, parishioners return outside, where already-prepared Pascal Baskets are blessed and shared.
There is a beautiful order to the Pascal Basket content: a family’s hand-embroidered or ritual cloth covers the basket, filled with contents, the result of weeks of meticulous preparation. The Pascal Basket usually includes: Two ritual breads (braided white bread and a sweeter babka made with raisins), the kozbasa sausage, ham and a khrin relish of beets and horseradish (the meat components are a reminder that the 40 days of Lenten fast from meat has concluded). There is butter shaped like a symbolic pascal lamb, cheeses, whole horseradish root, perfect beeswax candles. And of course there are the eggs — krashanky single-colored dyed eggs similar to the American Easter eggs and of course the pysankay, with ornate, intricate folk and nature designs written upon with a stylus layering the wax batik technique.
For young Ukrainians, Paska also is a day-long celebration of dance and song, called hayivky. The following day, Wet Monday, is a time of dousing as those renewed via Baptism continue their Paska celebrations. The Sunday following Easter is Thomas Sunday, a time of remembrance of the dead, with families taking Paska baskets to the cemeteries, to share foods and fun with loved ones who have passed.
- PYSANKA (BATIK EASTER EGG) WORKSHOP, Saturday, April 5, St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church, 715 W Vanover Rd. 9:30-1:30pm; $15.00 – Students $10.00. Children must be able to handle candle flame and hot wax. Stylus (kistka), wax, instruction sheet and dyes are provided, as well as video showing. Dye packets and decorating books available for purchase. Contact Ihor Kunasz of St. Michael’s for additional information (http://stmichaeltucson.org/site/Home.html)
- Father Andrei, the Right Rev. Dr. Andriy Chirovsky, also is the Founding Director of the Sheptytsky Institute and is the Peter and Doris Kule Professor of Eastern Christian Theology and Spirituality at St. Paul University in Ottawa. Learn more: http://www.sheptytskyinstitute.ca
- More on Ukrainian traditions as well as politics and history at this gateway: http://brama.com/