View from the Pew
Old-country egg artistry
Eggs are on sale at the supermarkets this week, supplies for the ancient religious observance of coloring eggs for Easter.
For hygienic or logistical reasons, the real things have likely been replaced by plastic copies in the egg hunts slated for church lawns tomorrow. But bowls of pastel ovals will still be found on tables wherever there's an Easter gathering, be it a celebration of the greatest festival of Christianity or a secular party at which chocolate-bunny-and-baked-ham is the sum of the spiritual experience.
A footnote: Boiled eggs are also to be found in Jewish homes where Passover is being celebrated this week. Among the ritual foods on the Seder plate is a roasted egg, or "betzah," which represents the continuing cycle of life. The shell of a boiled egg is scorched to symbolize the festival sacrifice that Jews offered in the temple in Jerusalem.
No one takes the Easter egg more seriously than Eastern European Christians for whom the decorating of eggs developed into an art form. Members of St. Sophia's Ukranian Catholic Church in Aina Haina gathered on recent Sundays to re-create some of the designs that have been handed down for generations.
Ukranians are not interested in those stick-on cartoon decorations that come in prepackaged dye kits.
"We don't paint or decorate an egg; we write them just as we write an icon," said the Rev. James Karepin, who waxes poetic about the wax pencil art. The fine designs will usually include the cross, "symbolic of the glorious cross through which Christ won the victory over sin and death," he said. "Flowers, newborn with the spring, are also pictured. Sometimes ... a deer, like the ones which the psalmist describes as yearning for running streams. How similar to us are these deer, as we yearn for the streams of living water flowing from the heart of the Savior.
"One sometimes finds roosters, not only recalling Peter's denials, but also recalling the Evangelists who ... proclaim the good news." Karepin said creativity is encouraged and that egg art is "as limitless as the human imagination and as deep as the divine presence within the human heart."
Egg artists down through the centuries weren't rushed to finish the things in a day as was happening at a lot of kitchen tables today. The work went on throughout the 40 days of the Great Fast, as the eastern rite Catholics call Lent.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Shown are some "pysankay" (Ukrainian Easter eggs) created by members of St. Sophia Ukrainian Church.
In the old days, church folks gave up all dairy and meat products throughout the six weeks leading up to Easter. "Chickens and geese didn't stop laying eggs just because people were fasting," Karepin said, "so people took these gifts of nature and put them to a different purpose. The nourishment derived was no longer merely physical, but also aesthetic and even spiritual."
They worked -- and still do -- on raw eggs, sometimes blowing the innards out through a pinhole or otherwise allowing nature to take its course in drying out the protein. The fragile art remained, sometimes for years.
A footnote: Aha, that makes sense to a Christian of another denomination in which eggs were eaten ad nauseam throughout Lent as a substitute for the forbidden meat. Coloring eggs at Easter was fun, but why in the world did we want heaps of them now when we're finally free to eat meat!?
The olden days of no eggs, no meat throughout Lent are no more, he said. Nowadays, abstaining from the rich foods is mandatory on Fridays, voluntary on Wednesdays. "Our regulations and our liturgy were influenced by the monks. It's difficult when in an industrial society to keep the same kind of fast as the monks might. When one is running around doing everything required in the modern life, it is difficult to keep that kind of a fast," said the priest, who is chancellor of the Chicago-based eparchy, or diocese, which includes Ukranian Catholic churches from Michigan to Hawaii.
The egg as a religious symbol goes back to the really olden days, to pagans whose spring fertility rites celebrated the rebirth of nature after the death of winter. Like the Christmas tree, "it was baptized, in other words Christianized," said Karepin. "The Christian symbolism is also striking. As the chick emerges from the stonelike tomb of the egg, so does Christ emerge from the prison of the tomb.
"The writing of icons is a spiritual practice, and in many ways the writing of Easter eggs is the same kind of practice," said Karepin, here to preside at Easter season liturgies through next weekend. The congregation meets at the oratory chapel behind Holy Trinity Church, 5919 Kalanianaole Highway.
"I don't have the patience, but people who do tell me it is very relaxing. It causes you to slow down, to approximate a meditative state.
"Could you imagine doing an Easter egg could be a way of praying? It can be a way of expressing the faith that is clamoring to get out. It is a way to quiet down to let the God within direct our creativity. To me that is prayer."
Easter, the greatest festival of Christianity, will be celebrated tomorrow in island churches. Several organizations sponsor community sunrise services. See also, Holiday calendar
» National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl. The 6:15 a.m. services will feature Catholic Bishop Larry Silva as keynote speaker, the Royal Hawaiian Band, the Honolulu Boy Choir and the Rev. Robert Morley, a Methodist minister. TheBus shuttles will leave Monsarrat Avenue at 5:15 a.m. with stops on Kuhio and Kalakaua avenues and the Alapai Street bus terminal.
» Hilton Hawaiian Village beachfront. The Waikiki Beach Chaplaincy will hold a 6:30 a.m. service.
» Magic Island. Baptisms will be part of the 6 a.m. service by Calvary Chapel Honolulu.
» Kailua Beach Park. The Windward Coalition of Churches will hold its annual service at 6 a.m. near the Lanikai boat ramp.
» Waianae High School athletic field. The 6 a.m. service will be sponsored by the Hawaii Coalition of Christian Churches.
» Kaiaka State Park, Haleiwa. The North Shore Ecumenical Service will begin at 6 a.m.
» Kakaako Waterfront Park. International Baptist Church will sponsor a 7:30 a.m. service near the Ilalo Street park entrance.
» Maunalua Bay Beach Park. Seven Hawaii Kai churches will join in a 6 a.m. service.
» Hawaii Theatre. The Easter worship at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. sponsored by First Presbyterian Church will feature a 75-voice choir and 30-piece orchestra.
» Ala Wai Golf Course. A 9 a.m. service by Horizon Christian Fellowship Honolulu will feature singer Melveen Leed, Easter narration by Kimo Kahoano and a message by the Rev. Francis Kamahele.
» Kaiser High School lawn. "Green Eggs and Spam" is the theme of children's services at 8 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., with ventriloquist Robin Garvin.
» Turtle Bay Resort pavilion. A 9 a.m. service will feature the Rev. David Milotta and contemporary music led by the Rev. Ron Valenciana.