Where is the Devil when you need him?

April 27, 2008

Well my 2nd Pascha service was even more wonderful then my first. That’s not meant as a comparison of St Luke’s to St. Peter’s, it’s just that this year I was so ready and expectant of God’s presence and I was certainly not disappointed. If you’ve never experienced Orthodox Pascha, all I can say is that it is truly an amazing time. Being at St. Peter’s this year allowed me an interesting vantage point from which to view the happenings.

We meet in a building that is above a parking garage with the steepest staircase in the universe! I kid not. To go up the stairs my wife literally places her hands on my rear and gives me a gentle shove to get up every step. As much as I like having her hands on my butt, it is still a very difficult climp. What this means is once I’m up stairs, I don’t go down again unless were heading home. Since there are several times during Holy week when the faithful follow the Cross and the Gospel out and down the stairs, I hang out and just watch from the balcony.

During the Pascal service there is a pivotal point that comes fairly early; a hinge pin if you will, where the faithful are transformed from the solemnity of mourning the death of the Hope of the World to the celebration of His New Creation. It begins with the church being plunged into almost complete darkness; the prayers are quiet and pleading. Then a single candle is lit at the altar and soon that one flame spreads throughout the entire room; The light of world is coming. The congregation then follows the Cross and the Gospel out of the Church and down the street singing (at 12 midnight) of the hope of resurrection. Once everyone has gone out the transformation in the church begins. People are running everywhere so that when the faithful return, they come into a transformed church of light, color, flowers– of life. It is truly an wonderful thing to see.

And now everything hinges on one important exchange. The Priest, who represents Christ to the congregation after leading several songs and prayers outside bangs hard upon the doors of the church exclaiming “Open wide ye gates. Be lifted up ye Everlasting Doors that the king of Glory may enter in!” At this point someone from inside has to play the part of the Devil and shout back “Who is this king of Glory?” Only one problem… no one inside knows who is the Devil this year! In years past this has apparently been done by a very nice, large brother with a “manly” voice by the name of Barry, but Barry is now where to be found. Panic is beginning to set in, Where is the devil? I can see the look in the faces of the women who are following along in the liturgy books. It’s almost here! who is the Devil this year? I don’t know! What if Father Patrick calls out but and there is no answer? Where is the Devil when you need him?

At the last moment in strolls Barry seemingly calm and unaware of the panic that had been taking hold of those inside. He steps up to the door with only a moment to spare. BAM! BAM! BAM! Just in time. Wow, was that close. The doors fly open and in come the Faithful having gone from the darkness of sorrow to the light of hope fulfilled! “Christ is risen!” “Truly he has risen!”

The remainder of the service is very difficult to describe. It’s almost like orchestrated chaos. Several different small choirs singing, the Priest stepping out from the altar shouting “Christ has Risen!”; in several different languages, while the choirs are singing and the people shouting back lifting their candles in the airs Truly he has risen!” Wow! Easter as it should be.


  1. Dude! I didn’t realize all of that was happening in the background. That was awesome. Barry’s a great guy and I can just imagine him strolling in for his part all calm while everyone else is beginning to panic. Very cool. That little vantage point you shared adds a special touch to an already awesome service.

  2. So, you just let the devil stroll into church and you do nothing?! 🙂

    Just kidding. Maybe you can be the “backup devil” for next time.
    Just practice the lines… “Who is this KING of GLORY?!”

    Nice post. Keep em coming.

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