Sunday, March 23, 2008

Flaounes and Festivities

I suppose that you could call it home sickness, although I am not a Cypriot! I spent a few years living and working in Cyprus and Easter time was my favourite time of the year. Just for a short few weeks every bit of waste ground and every dry river bed was covered in flowers. New life was evident all around.

I miss the way that the Cypriots took time to celebrate Easter. Sometimes we are so keen to throw off traditions frightened that they will suffocate our faith, but the Greek Orthodox Church revels in traditions. They involve all the physical senses of the body to capture the spirit.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon making flaounes – small Easter cheese cakes. The plan, sometime this afternoon is to take them around the neighbourhood and share some resurrection joy.

In Cyprus, people greet each other with the words “Christos anesti!” (Christ is risen.) to be answered with the words “Alithos anesti!” (He is risen in deed). So that is what I aim to try out with the neighbours.

I am not much of a baker, so my faounes are always a hit and miss affair. If the cheese mixture is too wet, there is tendency for it to spill out of the pastry shell. I have more spilled flaounes than not, but they taste fine.

I was at an Easter service this morning in my local church. It was billed as a family meeting, and the place was filled to capacity with every generation.

I can remember my own Sunday School days. It was a small chapel the other side of the village. For weeks before the Easter service we practised our “lines” and learnt to march in an orderly line to deliver them loud and clear to the congregation. It was rehearsed carefully and everything went according to plan.

This morning it was like my flaoune mixture – a bit messy and spilling out of the pastry shell! The kids had a part to play being given coloured balloons and encouraged to do a Mexican wave for Jesus! It wasn’t rehearsed. No one had learned their lines! It was messy! It was noisy! It was fun! It was life! It was – unexpected.

I had never been inside my local church before. I expected pews – but they had row upon row of seats. I expected Sunday best coats and hats and I got jeans. I expected a hymn book and got a huge screen and a projector. I expected an organ and got a band. I expected a straight jacket and got a people freely expressing their love for Jesus. I expected to feel like a stranger and got treated like a friend.

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