Now All Things Are Filled With Light
Genevieve Holland

The greatest feast on the Orthodox calendar is Pascha, the Resurrection of our Lord. Pascha is the culmination of all the eloquent beauty and intricate meaning of every aspect of our Orthodox faith and life. A photograph which I have seen, showing a priest beginning the Paschal service on the Holy Mountain, portrays this better than my words can. This photograph evokes not just the moment caught by the camera, but the entire Paschal service.

At the stroke of midnight--for our tradition is that Christ arose at this time--the priest steps out of the altar, holding a lighted candle. This candle, the only light in the church, reveals shadowy masses of silent people, faces full of breathless anticipation and joy, each person holding an unlit candle. Surrounded by the expectant faithful, the priest proclaims the timeless Resurrection for the first time. Christ's ultimate rising, after horrendous suffering and innocent death, has been hinted at throughout all of Great Lent, but now it is revealed in clear, unmistakable words. "Come, receive ye light from the Unwaning Light, and glorify Christ, Who is risen from the dead!"* chants the priest, holding up his triumphant candle. This candle is not only a thin taper of beeswax, but is also symbolic of Christ's conquering of the darkness of death, making it possible for us mortals to defy darkness and corruption and live eternally with Him. At first, only the feeble light of one candle breaks the darkness of the church, but everyone in the church rushes to light his own candle from the priest's. The light passes from candle to candle, around the church like a wave, until the whole temple is resplendent. Soon the entire church is singing: "Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Savior, the angels hymn in the heavens; vouchsafe also us on earth with pure hearts to glorify Thee." Led by the priest, the people process outside and around the church three times, pushing back the dark night with their flaming candles and exultant voices. Then, everyone comes back into the brilliantly lit church to continue the service, rejoicing.

This photograph might seem to capture only one moment of the triumphant service, but every time I see it, memories come rushing, filling in with vivid detail. I am again part of a crowded church, eagerly awaiting the proclamation of our redemption. Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

Genevieve Holland is the daughter of Fr. Seraphim Holland and the choir director at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Dallas, TX.

*This hymn is not sung in the Russian tradition; instead, the priest sings "Thy Resurrection" as he leaves the altar.