CANADIAN DIOCESE: May 10, 2021
Pascha in the Province of Ontario
For the second consecutive year, Pascha in the Church of the Smolensk Mother of God in Berezki, in the Province of Ontario, Canada, was celebrated under the strict restrictions connected with COVID-19. Last summer, with minimal limitations, the church was permitted to accommodate 30% capacity, but in the early days of the pandemic in 2020, only 5 persons were allowed in the church to celebrate the Pascha of Christ. It was very sad to emerge into the nave of the church and declare “Christ is Risen” without the thunderous and joyous response “Truly He is Risen!” The church was not filled to capacity as is usually the case, and the procession of the cross, usually attended by hundreds, was prohibited. We could not as before consecrate the kulichi and other Paschal victuals for all who wished. In recent years before the pandemic, our Canadian neighbors knew when the Russians celebrated Orthodox Pascha, some 300 people would arrive every 3 hours for the blessing of food.
This year we had very much hoped that we would be permitted to open the church to all worshipers, but due to the sharp increase in cases, all churches in Ontario had restrictions imposed on attendance. We were forced to establish a schedule for visiting the church, limiting attendance at any time to 10 people. Our doors were open after divine services, thanks to which many were able to come to church and pray, light candles and talk to the priest. People were very happy for this, since last year they could not even enter the church! At the request of many parishioners, we were able to live-stream the Paschal services.
Despite the epidemiological limitations, the Pasch of the Lord was greeted this year with dignity, and a procession of the cross even circled the church. We hope that in the coming months the epidemic will abate so that people can once again freely, without prior registration, attend all divine services!