The leave-taking of Pascha

The leave-taking of the great and holy feast of Pascha

AνάστασιςToday is the last day of Pascha. Each major feast of the Lord and His mother, on the Church calendar, has an Apodosis (leave-taking) that comes, normally, at the end of the cycle of the feast.  The hymns for Matins, Vespers, and the Divine Liturgy are repeated as on the first day of the feast except for some readings.  For Pascha, however, the Leave-Taking is on the 40th day, always on a Wednesday, before the celebration of the Ascension, but, with the exception of the changed lectionary, the services are the same as for Easter Sunday.

Orthodox blogger, John Sanidopoulos, had a nice reflection on the reason for an Apodosis:

“Every major feast has its Apodosis.  Why? The main reason is that the Church once again gives us the opportunity to celebrate the beauty of the feast.  When we see or experience something beautiful, it is human nature to desire to have that experience again.  When we taste delicious food, we desire to eat it again.  The feasts of Christ and the Theotokos are sweetness to the soul which arouses the desire to celebrate more than once. The beauty and richness of the Paschal Canon and the Paschal Stichera, the joy of the chants on Sunday morning are so marvellous that I am thrilled to repeat them every day of the first Bright week, and then repeat echoes of them each Sunday of the Easter season.  But there is a special delight on this day of Pascha in being able to re-pray all of the services one last time, forty days later.  It is like an anniversary party, hosted at the same site as the original celebration.

At the same time, in every remembrance there is a sense of incompleteness, a yearning for a future that more perfectly embodies that original greatness.  And so today, the Apodosis is on a Wednesday, which ordinarily is a fast day. But since we commemorate the leave-taking of this great feast on this day, the fast is not kept. Some customs even allow meat on this day while others in respect to the fact that today is a Wednesday do not consume meat. This however, is left at the discretion of each person’s fasting rule according to his or her spiritual father. The Pentecostarion period – from Pascha until the feast of Pentecost- is also a period more lenient on the fast. Oil and wine are permitted on Wednesdays and Fridays unlike the rest of the year. We also break the fast on the week following Pentecost on both days: Wednesday and Friday before the fasting period for the Apostles begins.

After today's end, we cease chanting the Paschal hymns that we have been chanting for the past forty days.  The canon, the stichera, even the tropar: “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs bestowing life”, all come to an end.  Today is the last day to rejoice in the pure Paschal joy in the presence of the Risen Lord before his Ascension.  For the next nine days there is a kind of silence hovering over the Church's liturgy after having celebrated continuously the Paschal service and hymns.  There is still a certain Paschal joy and expectation for Pentecost; for example we still do not kneel...but there is an air of waiting, of not quite full Paschal joy...  But for today, sing your heart out!  It is the last chance till next year.