Sunrise

I’m a lark, not an owl, so even though I was still ringing from District 19 (interesting verité sci-fi rumination on prejudice, set in South Africa) at midnight, I was up at 5:15 to make it, as usual, to the Easter sunrise service on Pemaquid Point.  I think 1955 or ’56 was my first year to go to this service – I remember being bundled by my father in the dark into a WWII army blanket in the back of the two-tone Chevy wagon – so it’s been over 30 years that I have been going.  Of course not the years out west and in Europe, but since returning here I go every year I’m not away teaching.  A tradition is a worthwhile hook to hang onto, in the name of the Father if not his son.

The setting is magnificent, 30 meters above the open sea, with an outlook to the east.  To its gentle susurrations (this year, at least – Pemaquid can be pretty Wagnerian after a storm), the sun rises as a red ball during the service over the whale-black lumps of Allen and Monhegan. By now I know almost no one there, except another early-rising, dubiously Christian friend.  But it’s a reassuring rural crowd half attending to a predictable homily, singing hesitantly off key – who has a voice at that time of day? – to the tinny toy organ sat on a ledge with a long extension cord into the lighthouse.  Did you know that alleluia of that ubiquitous Easter hymn is taken from the Islamic alhamdulillah – ‘all praise to Allah’?

This morning was the warmest service I remember – often it is an endurance test that makes brevity the soul of wit, but this morning people lingered to catch up on the news and enjoy the streaking light across the sky before repairing to New Harbor for a bad breakfast with good company.  Having not eaten last night, I’m hungry by then.

It reminds me of the year I lived in Greece, 1984.  Easter is the biggest holiday there, much bigger than Christmas.  Christ dies on Friday and the Greek Orthodox must fast until Christ rises, so with a very favorable interpretation of ‘three days’: they fast from late Friday night until the Sunday service – which takes place at midnight Saturday night, the very first hour possible, and most Greeks go home from there for a big meal at about 2am, and no one is seen abroad on Easter morning until well into the afternoon.

The church in our little village was so crowded that by the time we (band of English hippies going ‘back to the land’ in the Peloponnese) arrive, we are pushed to the very side up front, where we can see through the arches from the outer altar to the inner sanctum (forgotten these proper names in Greek).  On the outer ‘stage’ (sorry) the priests are intoning prayers and waving censors of frankincense around, behind the scenes they were literally – still in their robes and stovepipe hats – counting the money during the service.  This kind of avarice – evident in other areas of ecclesiastical interaction with the plebs as well – did not endear the Greek Orthodox Church to me, but in their favor, the collection from the Easter service was probably the bulk of their yearly income – the equivalent of the Friday after Thanksgiving for retailers, so one can understand their eagerness.

Xristos anesti! Xristos anesti pragmati! (Christ is risen indeed)

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One Response to “Sunrise”

  1. Sunrise Ruminants | selfemployedinsurancerobertpeter Says:

    […] retailers, so one can understand their eagerness. Xristos anesti ! Xristos anesti pragmati! …Next Page eczova 4 April 2010 yearly income eagerness, easter service, thanksgiving, xristos anesti, […]

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