Easter has been in the mind of the parishioners at the Cathedral in North Melbourne from the beginning of Lent but, in the last few weeks, there has been a noticeable increase of activities and excitement. Church attendance, as well as participation in the Sacrament, has seemed to improve over the last few years. The children in the parish have participated in greater numbers. They processed into church carrying icons on one Sunday, the cross on the next, and palms on Palm Sunday. Due to the lack of pussy willows in Australia during summer, the parish has been using something that Jesus would have seen himself on the week before the Resurrection – palm and olive branches. There is no shortage of these in the land down under.
The parish school started preparing for Easter a few weeks ago. They gathered to write Pysanky (Easter eggs). The children are very proficient at it now. A week later the Ukrainian youth associations gathered a few times during the day to teach its various age groups how to write Easter eggs as well.
The school children have had a number of practises for the traditional “hailky” which is the dance celebrating and is held on the church grounds after Easter liturgy. On the two days before Palm Sunday, two groups, the Ukrainian school and the parish itself used the two kitchens we have on site to teach Easter Paska bread making and to make the Paska for sale on Palm Sunday. Well over 80 pasky were baked but it seems twice as many were needed because they sold out very quickly.
The parish itself stocked all the supplies that are needed for Easter Paska blessing at Easter, eggs, sausage, ham, horseradish, cheese. Again everything sold out very quickly.
Palm Sunday itself at the Cathedral saw rather huge crowds. The church was very full. The children followed our old tradition and had a procession of palm branches just as it might have been in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
Bishop Peter in his homily asked those present to answer the question asked when Jesus rode in on the back of a donkey. “Who is this man?”. He stated that each Christian had to answer the question personally. On that answer depended their relationship with Christ and the church.
After Liturgy, most people went upstairs to the hall for the regular Sunday meal and the Palm Sunday bazaar. This was one of the biggest crowds which gathered in recent times, literally there had to be two seatings at the tables. It was a big day at North Melbourne. You could tell that the atmosphere was good. People stayed well into the afternoon. It was a wonderful opportunity for community building.
Holy Week and Easter are looking promising.