Pascha is a time of miracles: big and small, obvious to everyone and clear only to an individual person. Foma Magazine asked a variety of people, including their VKontakte subscribers, to share their stories of Paschal miracles.
Olga Emelianenko, a priest’s wife, a mother of many children, Lomonosov, Leningrad region
The prayer that opens doors
I grew up in the large family of a priest. My father served in the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in the village of Neronovka of the Samara Region. I had ten siblings, and we all helped our parents in church—the boys helped in the altar, and the girls sang in the choir headed by their mother.
Since early childhood, Pascha for each of us was always inextricably linked with a miracle. Take the distribution of kulichi to the parishioners, which my mother and I prepared throughout Holy Week! Or the delight during the night service, when the choir, and the whole church behind it, would sing, “Christ is Risen from the dead...”, at first quietly, and then louder and louder. This feeling of Paschal joy was instilled in us by our parents.
Once an event that occurred on Pascha made such an indelible impression on me, then a child, that I remembered it forever. After the Paschal service my siblings and I, already tired and half asleep, went home. It was just beginning to dawn and it was quite cold. We wanted to get home as soon as possible and start the long-awaited festive meal. But for some mysterious reason we could not open the front door. No matter how hard we tried, the lock just wouldn’t turn! We had to wait until our father finished blessing kulichi (Paschal cakes) at the church. But he couldn’t unlock the door either. After several unsuccessful attempts, it became clear that the door would have to be broken. But then father read a prayer, made the sign of the cross in front of the lock, turned the key... and the door opened!
On that Paschal morning I realized the power of prayer, of the sign of the cross, and, most importantly, of faith, which can turn any trouble into a miracle.
Marina Borisova, a journalist, Moscow
One Saturday before May 1, I called my friend without any particular reason, just to chat, and she said: “Listen, there is bedlam here: tomorrow is Pascha, and I must clean the apartment, dye the eggs, and wash the children. I am short of time and can’t do anything on my own!”
“Do you want me to come and help you? Let’s get together and talk.”
“I don’t know... Well, please come.” With our four hands, we did all the work quickly, put the children to bed, and my friend invited me to go to church with her. I don’t know what got into me. Before that I had never been to church services. I was embarrassed and thought, “It’ll be a shame! People will be praying there, and I, a non-believer, will be staring at them...” But then everything came together—the expectation of the feast and the preparation fuss... And I agreed. The church was packed with people and was humming gently. My friend “plunged” deeper into the church and reappeared with two candles, giving me one of them. And then, somewhere far ahead, men’s voices sang quietly: “Thy Resurrection, O Christ Savior, the angels hymn in the heavens...” The church instantly became silent, and dots of lights of the candles in our hands began to gleam. “Vouchsafe us on earth...” The voices in the altar grew stronger, and someone lit my candle. “With pure hearts to glorify Thee.” The entire church was singing, and I was singing, and everything was singing inside me. I walked with everyone around the church and felt, “Here it is, my Feast! The very feast, the foretaste of which had lived in the holidays of my childhood! I’ve come home and won’t go anywhere from here.” A week later, on Radonitsa, I was baptized. The font was placed on the kliros, under the Icon of the Mother of God, “Unexpected Joy”.
Maria Kiseleva, a member of the Vyatka Voice folk choir, a computer science teacher, the city of Kirov
My mother’s Communion
A few years ago, for the first time in my life I was supposed to sing the Paschal service with our church choir. My mother drops in at church only when I ask her to come, light a candle and pray for someone. Otherwise, she usually has no desire to go to the service .
That year for the first time I was going to sing the Paschal service with our church choir. But before the feast the priest asked three people to go to a village church, where there was absolutely no one to sing. That church was unheated and unrepaired, so no one wanted to leave the united team and travel there. However, I and two other people agreed.
And soon after that my mother began to ask me how to attend the Liturgy and take Communion properly. And she went! True, perhaps it was just a coincidence, but then a very clear idea came to my mind: When you sacrifice something for the sake of God and do His will, He fulfills your desire and performs miracles. And for me my mother’s Communion is a real miracle.
Lyudmila Derzhavina, journalist, Kazan
Sunday at a hospice
The hospice. I got to know this place a year ago on Bright Week, when the choir and I helped serve the Paschal Liturgy for people who were unable to come to the Paschal service and glorify the Risen Savior together with everyone.
The hospice is located in a very quiet area. As you drive up to it, you feel as if in front of you were a large private house behind a brick fence, and not a hospital building. A spacious courtyard, playgrounds, greenery and flowers, and a large building with colorful butterfly designs. Inside it resembles rather a mixture of a kindergarten and a cozy home. And it is hard to believe that people in such a place can suffer. On either side of the long corridor here and there you can see doors with multi-colored signs: “We eat here”, “Anna the sun lives here”, “Misha the bunny lives here”, and others.
People had already gathered at the prayer room: the young patients, adults, and those who cared for the children. As the priest was singing the Paschal troparion with the people, many were smiling. The children had unusually pure eyes, which are rare anywhere else. Everyone took Communion.
Then the priest went to give Communion to the children who were unable to get out of bed. We started visiting the rooms (it’s hard to call them wards). Mashenka lived in the first one. She was very small and looked like a two-year-old. She was lying and could not open her eyes. Her mother gave her consent for Communion, and when Masha communed, she smiled.
In the next room a woman was standing at the entrance. She told us that her husband was so weak that he had not reacted to people for several days and most likely would not be able to take Communion. Then the priest came up to him and said: “Christ is Risen!” And suddenly the man who had been silent for several days answeredm, barely audibly, “Truly He is Risen.” His wife was crying and smiling simultaneously. He communed successfully. For me, that moment was a true Paschal miracle.
Anastasia Kuznetsova, housewife, Kazan
Christ is Risen! What other miracle do you want?
My children and I were driving from the church at four in the morning. Vanya was then eight years old, and it was his first night service on Pascha. A highway. It was dawning. Vanya said disappointedly: “I thought there would be some miracle. I so want a miracle!” And then a moose came out on the road right in front of us! I had been driving slowly, so I managed to stop about fifty yards from it. It crossed half the road, stopped and looked at us, as if wondering, “Christ is Risen! What other miracle do you want, little boy?” After standing for a short while and allowing us to admire it, the moose slowly walked into the forest. My son was delighted: “Mom, God heard me!”
Olga Khrapenkova, journalist, Ryazan
Pascha and grandmothers
For me as to a child a Paschal miracle was an ordinary trip to my grandmother on this radiant feast. My grandparents lived in the country, and we would travel to them from the city. I would manage to come only for a day—I studied on Saturdays, and my parents waited until my five lessons ended. But that year Pascha was late, coinciding with the May holidays! I have hardly ever experienced such joy from the feast.
My lessons flew by, and I ran home. It was Holy Saturday, and everything around seemed to be whispering, “Joy and the festivity are coming soon!” At home my mother had already baked kulichi, cooked paskha cheese and dyed eggs to take them to my grandmother’s! There was a pile of small chocolate eggs in multi-colored wrappers by an icon of the Mother of God—a gift from my mother. And it felt as if it were from the Theotokos Herself! We got ready quickly, and surprisingly, without traffic jams, we arrived at my grandmother’s house. And there all my uncles and aunts with their families had already arrived... There were so many people—but the house didn’t feel crowded or noisy. Rather, it was fun!
My grandmother and I filled a bag with Paschal treats to have them blessed. We took a lot of treats with us to share with the monks and the poor—such was the custom at the monastery. My grandmother went with us, her grandchildren, greeting everyone she met.
In the evening the whole family went to the night service. It was cool outside, but not chilly. After the cross procession the priest proclaimed: “Christ is Risen!” We responded: “Truly He is Risen,” as if the decibel level of our answer determined how much we loved God.
I gradually become sleepy. My father’s mother, with whom we did not communicate much, took my hand and said, “Let me take you home! Will you stop by at my place on the way home? I have a present for you.” For me it was a true little miracle. It was night, but it was not scary. Clasping the box of cakes, I ran to my mother’s parents’ house. My grandfather opened: “Christ is Risen!” “Truly He is Risen! I’m going to sleep...” “Go, my dear.” But I didn’t want to sleep anymore, because Christ is Risen! I fell asleep somehow. And in the morning a celebration awaited us.
And indeed, it was a feast of feasts. After that I experienced such joy only once in my life—when as a pregnant woman I took Communion on Pascha. Someone will never call such family meetings a miracle, but for me, a small child, the moment when the whole family gathers together, when there is nothing to grieve about, when everyone is alive and healthy, was among the most precious memories. It’s now the second year since my grandmother has not greeted us with the words, “Christ is Risen!”—but our joint family Paschal gatherings, once begun at her initiative, continue to this day. And it seems to be an even greater miracle.
Alena Sokolova, assistant at A.P. Chekhov Moscow Art Theater, Moscow
When there is no need to explain
On Pascha Sunday evening my goddaughter and I came to church to take the Holy Fire. Leaving the church with a burning candle in her hands, my goddaughter wondered why it was called “Holy”. At that moment, a strong wind suddenly started blowing and extinguished the candle in an instant... I froze without knowing what to answer the girl. And then the candle lit up again! My goddaughter said in all seriousness, “Now I see!” And we headed for the car.