A community celebration...
Apart from the religious meaning of Easter, there is another significant aspect of this holy day. It is a time for our families and our communities to come together: in prayer before and during Easter, on Holy Saturday for the communal blessing of our Easter baskets filled with traditional foods, and on Easter Sunday for our family meals of "sviachene" (the blessed Easter food). The "sviachene" ritual has been transformed also into a community-wide feast, as our parishes and various organizations hold such Eastertime gatherings for all of their members.
Easter is indeed a feast of great joy that unites the entire community in celebration; in Ukraine the celebrations continued into Monday and Tuesday ("Svitlyi Ponedilok" and "Svitlyi Vivtorok" - Bright Monday and Tuesday). It is a time to cherish not only our family and friends, but our community as well. It is a good time, too, to reflect on the community's value and ponder its future.
In doing so, perhaps we should begin with the simplest of questions: What does "community" mean to you? What is it about our community that you value most? And how is that community bound together? What are the ingredients of the "glue" that keeps us together, that makes us want to be a part of the whole?
What have you done lately for our community? Have you contributed to its activity, or have you been content to let others do the work - from which you derive benefit? How many times have you complained about our community, yet done nothing yourself to improve the situation? Finally, there is another set of questions: Are we fair-weather friends of our community, joining in the fun, but not the work? Are we the type of Ukrainian who takes part in community events only during a special event, a holiday or a holy day? (As one parish priest in New Jersey recently noted upon seeing a church overflowing with people on Palm Sunday [known in Ukrainian as Kvitna, or Verbna, Nedilia] : "I would like to have Kvitna Nedilia once a month!") Herein lies a danger: that someday, sooner than you would expect, that special event or holiday will not be celebrated by our community - because it will have withered away due to lack of involvement. And then who will you blame?
Perhaps these thoughts are too somber for some on this joyous Easter holiday. But, dear readers, as you enjoy the company of your fellow Ukrainians, consider this: What would it be like without that community? Perhaps then the words above will be seen as sobering, and necessary, introspection. We have so much to lose ...
If only we could take a branch of the verba (pussy willow) and do to our community as we do to each other on Verbna Nedilia: tap gently and say the words "Be as tall as the willow, as healthy as the water, and as rich as the earth" - thus bidding our community hardiness, health and wealth. If only it were that simple.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, March 30, 1997, No. 13, Vol. LXV
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