Tuesday, May 23, 2006

An Easter in Siberia (1958)

All day Friday, I heard a tremendous number of Easter confessions, as I had very night that week after work. On Friday evening, after Good Friday services, I set out to begin my tour of the city. Every place I went, there were people waiting — even in the middle of the night or the long cold hours of early morning. I got back to my bolok [shanty] Saturday morning in time for services at 6 A.M. It was jammed with people, many of whom had been there overnight in order to get a place before the altar for this long Easter Vigil service. Many of them, too, stayed in the chapel after the Saturday services until it was time for the Easter midnight Mass, with nothing to eat all day, so they would be close to the altar. After the services, I started making the rounds again, doubling back to my bolok every few hours to bless the baskets of food which filled my little room from wall to wall, a new batch every time. By 11:30 P.M. Saturday, I was back home but I could hardly get near the bolok. Even the corridors and the vestibule were jammed; crowds of people were swarming around outside in the midnight cold. There was barely room to move anywhere, but by twelve o’clock I was vested — I couldn’t lift my arms because of the crowd, so someone had to pull the vestments over my head — and ready for Mass. The altar was covered with flowers and candles; we even had a choir. As I began the solemn intonation of the Easter Mass, the chapel seemed to explode with sound. An Easter Mass is a joyous one to begin with, but the enthusiasm of the people that night I shall never forget. Tired as I was after more than forty-eight hours without sleep, hurrying from place to place, I felt suddenly elated and swept along. I forgot about everything but the Mass and the joy of Easter.

The crowds were so great it was impossible to distribute Communion, because no one could move. Communion had to be distributed after Mass. The services ended at 3 A.M., but at nine o’clock the next morining I was still distributing Communon to a constant stream of people. I would hear the crowds outside, going home through the Easter dawn, shouting the traditional Easter greeting: “Khristos voskres!” (Christ is risen!), and the joyous answer, “Voistinu voskres!” (Indeed, he is risen!). After it was finally all over, I came back to my room alone and sat down at the little table in my bolok, completely exhausted. Yet I was deeply satisfied; I knew a joy that day I have rarely known. I felt that at last, in God’s own good providence, I was beginning to live my dream of serving his flock in Russia. “And all this,” was the thought that kept flashing through my mind, “all this took place in Russia, in Norilsk!’

— Walter J. Ciszek, He Leadeth Me, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, pp. 171–172.

Several days later, the KGB told Father Ciszek to leave Norilsk forever. The description of this Easter in Siberia comes in a chapter called “Humility”.


Sin, righteousness, judgment

By the power of the Holy Spirit we are made strong by the knowledge that the world sinned by denying the Son, that the righteous witness in the world by faithful suffering, and that the Son will return to judge the world.

And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
— John 16:8

Of sin, because they believe not on me;
— John 16:9

And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
— John 9:39–41

Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
— John 16:10

A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
— Johne 16:16–22

Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
— John 16:11

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
— John 12:31



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