Слава Ісусу Христу! Glory be to Jesus Christ!
We're almost at the point when we can finally say "Христос воскрес!" or "Christ is Risen!" and I for one am pretty stoked for Easter. I mean, kovbasa and ham, am I right? Before Easter can happen, however, we had to get through Good Friday and one of my favourite events that the Edmonton Eparchy hosts: the Annual Plashchanytsia Hop!
Because the Edmonton area has 10 parishes the Eparchial Ukrainian Catholic Youth decided to create an event where they could visit each parish on Good Friday to venerate the various Shrouds on display and experience the different churches. There also is usually some sort of activity at each parish, such as personal or communal prayer, or a talk by the parish priest. This all-day "hop-on, hop-off" event has been done annually since I was part of UCY and it's one of the more popular things the Eparchy does to foster community and spiritual growth in youth across parishes. I hadn't been to a Plashchanytsia Hop for a couple years, so I was excited to get some of the youth at St. Nick's involved and experiencing one of my favourite events.
I began at St. Nicholas' to pick up the youth that would be part of my car pool. We then headed to St. George's to meet the other participants at 3:15pm. Since the church was filled with parishioners, we decided to begin our journey with personal silent prayer in front of the Shroud. After everyone venerated the Shroud, we gathered outside to grab Lent-appropriate food supplies from our Eparchial Youth Minister, Millie's, car (with no stop for supper on our journey, we had to make sure to keep our energy levels up; it is, after all, a long day). Finally, we were off!
Our next stop was the parish furthest west, Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God. Dormition is also one of the smaller parishes in Edmonton; it feels quite cozy. Here we had the chance to hear Fr. Danylo Kuc talk a bit about the events that surround Good Friday and the Shroud itself, how and why we venerate it. I've got to say that I was pretty impressed with some of the younger girls I brought along with me: they were on fire with their responses to Fr. Danylo's questions regarding Good Friday and the Shroud! Clearly they're paying attention at school and Bozhi Dity! We also had the opportunity for a group photo. It turned out quite nice (though perhaps I shouldn't have been smiling... oops):
Next we were off to the north side of Edmonton: first to St. Vladimir's where Millie read Patriarch Sviatoslav's message to the youth on Palm Sunday, and then to Exaltation of the Holy Cross for Jerusalem Matins. Admittedly we were quite late for Jerusalem Matins (you try squeezing in 4 parishes in less than 2 hours!), but I think it turned out quite well; the youth got a chance to experience a bit of Jerusalem Matins and were alert enough to appreciate it.
Here is where we lost some of our participants, but St. Nicholas' youth continued to represent as we continued on our journey. Onwards east to Holy Eucharist in Beverley and a talk from Fr. Mykhailo Planchak. I always find he has really interesting points in his talks and he didn't disappoint! Again, our youngsters managed to blow Fr. Planchak away with their answers which continued to impress me.
Our sixth parish (more than halfway!) took us to Sherwood Park and the parish furthest east: St. Sophia. St. Sophia's is still in the process of building their church, but the community is strong and finds its home at Madonna Catholic School. Here we participated in one of my favourite communal prayers, the Jesus Prayer:
Jesus, Lord Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The Jesus Prayer is repeated over and over, everyone chanting together. There's something beautiful and haunting about the Jesus Prayer and something happens through that prayer compared to others that I can't explain. It was definitely a wonderful experience at St. Sophia's.
Three parishes left: St. Nicholas, St. Basil's, and St, Josaphat's. Again we lost a couple participants at St. Sophia's (our bright young ladies) but we few left carried on. Since we were getting towards the end of the night, it was fitting that we took time for silent prayer, a Rosary, and more silent prayer at each respective parish, a chance to really reflect on the events of the day and their importance in our salvation. Being together at St. Josaphat's with other parishioners was also a nice way to finish the night, people across the generations coming together to be with Jesus as He lay in the tomb.
I'm so grateful I got to experience the Plashchanytsia Hop this year; it was definitely overdue. I will admit that there were times I wanted to quite and go home to sleep, but I'm thankful the youth wanted to continue. I wouldn't have had those final quiet reflections that I so desperately needed.
And now, on to Easter!