Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Apodosis, or Leavetaking, of Pascha

Today is the last day of Pascha for Christians of the Byzantine tradition.  Each major feast on the Church calendar has an Apodosis that comes, normally, at the end of the octave.  The hymns for Matins, the hours, Vespers, Compline, and the Divine Liturgy are repeated as on the first day of the feast.  For Pascha, however, the Leave-Taking is on the vigil of the Ascension, but, with the exception of the changed lectionary, the services are the same as for Easter Sunday.

Two years ago, Orthodox blogger, John Sanidopoulos, had a nice reflection on the reason for an Apodosis:

Every major feast has its Apodosis.  Why? The main reason is that the Church once again gives us the opportunity to celebrate the beauty of the feast.  When we see or experience something beautiful, it is human nature to desire to have that experience again.  When we taste delicious food, we desire to eat it again.  The feasts of Christ and the Theotokos are a sweetness to the soul which arouses the desire to celebrate more than once.
I have found this to be true in my own experience.  The beauty and richness of the Paschal Canon and the Paschal Stichera, the joy of the chants on Sunday morning are so marvelous that I am thrilled to repeat them every day of the first Bright week, and then repeat echoes of them each Sunday of the Easter season.  But there is a special delight on this day of Pascha in being able to re-pray all of the services one last time, forty days later.  It is like an anniversary party for a happily married couple, hosted at the same site as the original celebration.

At the same time, in every remembrance there is a sense of incompleteness, a yearning for a future that more perfectly embodies that original greatness.  And so today, the Apodosis is on a Wednesday, a fast day.  For those who observe the fasting rules in all their rigour, ordinarily today would be no meat, dairy, fish, wine or oil.  But every Wednesday and Friday of Pascha are allowed wine and oil, and today fish is allowed as well.  But even for those keeping a more minimal fasting observance, today is a meatless Easter.  We sing the hymns, but our fasting reminds us that it is not Pascha Sunday, and we are at the beginning of the end of this feast of feasts.

After today's end, we cease chanting the Paschal hymns.  The canon, the stichera, even the ubiquitous tropar: Christ is Risen... all come to an end.  Today, is the last day to rejoice in the pure Paschal joy in the presence of the Risen Lord before his Ascension.  For the next nine days there is a kind of silence hovering over the Church's liturgy.  There is still a certain pascal joy and expectation for Pentecost; for example we still do not kneel...but there is an air of waiting, of not quite full Paschal joy...  But for today, sing your heart out!  It is the last chance till next year.

To help you, here is a link with the Paschal Tropar chanted in different melodies and languages:  Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, granting life.


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