Here in Moldova, Easter is just around the corner. For the Orthodox faith, which according to recent statistics, around 94% of Moldovans adhere to, Easter will be on April 28th. However, for me and others of Christian faiths based in western parts of the world (Catholics, Protestants, etc.), Easter arrived a week earlier, this past weekend, April 21st.
For me, Easter is an exciting time and a great way for me to get closer to my faith. Back in the US, I don’t think I ever missed an Easter Vigil Mass with my family. Prior to this year, there had only been one Easter where I didn’t celebrate with my parents and sisters (though, I was blessed and was able to celebrate with my aunt, uncle, and cousins).
In Moldova, only around .5% of the total population is Catholic (around 20,000 individuals). As such, there are only a handful of churches throughout the whole country.
With that in mind, I figured there would be no chance for me to attend a Catholic Mass (I’ll be attending an Orthodox Mass for Moldovan Easter coming up). However, with a few other volunteers, we were able to find out when Easter Vigil Service would be. We figured it would be a great way to have a new cultural experience.
Due to an In-Service training weekend, I was in Chisinau for the weekend. Chisinau where the Catholic Cathedral is located and where the Easter Vigil (Saturday night) Mass we planned to attend would be held.
After the IST ended for the evening, I joined 3 other volunteers and we ate at a Georgian Restaurant. It was delicious and not what I was expecting. I am not even sure I could explain what I ate, but I definitely would go back.
Following the short dinner, we made our way to church, where we joined 4 other volunteers. We arrived early, not knowing what to expect and we are glad that we did. We were able to find seats, but many people did not.
The service started at 8:30 pm. We were hoping it would be in Romanian, but we had no idea what to expect. As we started our service outside; however, we determined it would be mainly in Russian…
Throughout Mass, there were at least 4 languages spoken. Russian was primarily spoken, and as someone who has yet to know much Russian outside of a basic greeting, I found those parts hard to get through. Although, at times, I was able to figure out where the readings came from (benefit of going for so many years I guess). Romanian was spoken, and I was thrilled every time I heard it and could understand what was happening! Of course Latin was spoken, but so was Polish. Initially, I was surprised that Polish was used, but then I remembered that every weekend, there is a Polish service, as well as many times throughout the week.
We left at around 11:00 pm. At this point, everyone was brought outside so the priest could bless the food and other items that people had brought with them to church. This seems to be a fairly common tradition in Eastern Europe. Typically after Mass and the blessing, people will go back home and eat a dinner before going to bed. Leading up to Easter, the last week of Lent tends to be the time when people have their strictest diets. This dinner is a way for people to eat food they hadn’t in a long time and celebrate the joyous season of Easter.
Back home in the States, my family uses gets ice cream (blizzards) from Dairy Queen. Although none exist in Moldova, I did get two ice cream sandwiches, which I feasted on after Mass.
Above, photos of the church at night and a photo of 4 of us volunteers who were able to get a photo together.
It ended up being a long night, but I’m glad I was able to go. Although I wasn’t able to be with my American family, I was able to celebrate with my “government-issued family.” And for that, I am thankful.
In one week, I will be celebrating Orthodox Easter with my Moldovan family, and I can’t wait! Until next time.
Happy Easter. Paste Fericit!
Hristos a înviat!