Arnold Orthodox congregation celebrates Pascha
The celebration of “Christ Has Risen” at Holy Virgin Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Arnold was packed with much spiritual punch for the diminutive parish of 25.
Orthodox Christians on Sunday observed Orthodox Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that typically is held the Sunday following the first full moon after Passover.
There are nearly 260 million Orthodox Christians around the world, according to the Pew Research Center.
Holy Virgin's Pascha ceremony Sunday was rich with the traditional pageantry of white lilies and Easter baskets filled with meats and dairy goods all gathered near the altar awaiting blessing.
Sunday's services, among a string of special Easter services that extend to next week and beyond, featured live choral music of traditional religious songs, mostly in English, but some in Ukrainian.
The Rev. Mark Swindle punctuated the holiday service with calls for help and protection for the parish's Ukrainian homeland as well as his flock and the U.S. government.
The holiday illustrates “how Christ has overcome,” Swindle said in a brief sermon. “We must rejoice in this holiday of resurrection.”
Attendance was good for the nearly three hours of multiple services held Sunday.
“We are like one family,” Swindle said. “We are small but a very strong parish.”
Liudmyla Shalimova, a recent Ukrainian immigrant who lives in Penn Hills, attended Sunday's events.
“The services were very nice,” she said.
Walter Sakal, 87, of Arnold is a lifelong parishioner and choir director at the church.
“This is our tradition and our life,” said Sakal, who was recently awarded the Medal of St. Vladimir by Archbishop Daniel Leads of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA for his dedication and lifelong service to the church.
He and his wife, Rochelle, brought an Easter basket brimming with special paska bread, kielbasa, cheese and traditional hand-decorated Easter eggs known as pysanky.
Sunday's celebration ended a 50-day fast of abstaining from meat and dairy for many.
Parishioners were planning their respective feasts later Sunday of their Easter basket foods.