Pascha at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago

Christ is Risen!

I took the kids to Chicago to celebrate Pascha at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral. This is a special place for me, not in the least because it was the first place I ever really “encountered” Orthodoxy. We went here last year as well, and although we got there at 11pm – 30 minutes before the beginning of nocturnes – the parking lot was full, and there wasn’t a spot to be found anywhere on the street either. This year, we got there at 10:30pm, and there were still plenty of spots, but several more of them filled within minutes of our arrival.

Holy Trinity Cathedral night Pascha 2023

Holy Trinity Cathedral was built in 1902, and was designed by Louis Sullivan, arguably one of the most influential architects in the history of the United States. Holy Trinity is one of only a handful of places of worship that he designed, and if I remember correctly, the only one left standing.

This is the view of the inside of the church immediately inside the doors of thee sanctuary. This even looked a fair amount different than what I am used to, as the carpet that has covered the floors has been removed, going back to the original inlaid wood. It’s beautiful and striking, and also changes the acoustics of the place somewhat. What is surprising i

The church was actually somewhat darker than the photograph, as, at this point, we have not officially hit Pascha. There are actually three services that are part of the celebration of Pascha here: Nocturnes, which start at 11:30pm, with the church mainly dark. That is Fr. Alexander Koranda there, facing the altar.

As it gets closer to midnight, the clergy go behind the iconostasis (the icon “screen” that separates the altar from the rest of the church), and the church gets completely dark. There is silence first, and then there is singing from the clergy behind the iconostasis.

Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Savior,
The Angels in Heaven sing,
Enable us on earth,
To glorify Thee in purity of heart

This is a video of the same point in the service from St. Mary Orthodox Church in Minneapolis from a few years ago:

At the beginning, there is only the light from very few candles, yet in the darkness, they can be seen by all. That flame is shared until everybody in church is holding a lighted candle.

Because this is a church of Russian heritage, the chant is sung in Old Church Slavonic as well.

Everyone (who can) exits the dark church with their candles and processes around the church three times, led by the clergy with the cross and banners, then by the choir, who keeps singing. The bells start to ring.

The bells ringing at midnight on Pascha, 2023

As we walk around outside, it’s obvious that the whole interior is shining bright

After three times around the church, we stand in front of the church, the choir and the clergy sing, and from here we have the first pronouncements of Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen! - Indeed, He is risen!
Христосъ воскресе! Воистину воскресе! (Khristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!)
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! (Khristós anésti! Alithós anésti!)
Христос воскрес! Воістину воскрес! (Khrystos voskres! Voistynu voskres!)

We file back into the church, and now everything is light. Tonight the “service” consists of Nocturnes (before midnight) then Matins and Divine Liturgy. Things ran about three hours, all told, though at certain churches, the services can run well into the four and five hour range.

It really starts “feeling” like Pascha with “The Angel Cried”

Archbishop Daniel read the Paschal message of St. John Chrysostom, as is customary

And more cries of “Christ is Risen!”

Christ is risen! - Indeed, He is risen!
Христосъ воскресе! Воистину воскресе! (Khristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!)
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! (Khristós anésti! Alithós anésti!)
Христос воскрес! Воістину воскрес! (Khrystos voskres! Voistynu voskres!)
¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡En verdad ha resucitado!
المسيح قام! حقا قام (al-Masīḥ qām! Ḥaqqan qām!)
Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!
Hristos a înviat! Adevărat a înviat!

Being a language person, I love all the languages, but it’s closely tied in to the Great Commission, making disciples of all nations. Agape Vespers – which take place later on Sunday – is a service where the Gospel is typically read in as many languages as a parish can get together, and is the only service where any parishioner may read the Gospel as part of the church service. (It’s one of my favorite services, but one I haven’t made it to in a long time.)

There is a lot of exhaustion, but there is a sense of overwhelming joy. Being in this place, too, there’s a sense of history as well. From our perch up in the balcony, I could clearly see the big icon of the life of Fr. John Kochuroff, the first priest assigned to this church, who got the church building built, and who went back to Russia in 1907, and was the first priest martyred by the Bolsheviks, on October 31, 1917.

Fr. John Kochuroff Holy Trinity 1905 Chicago Daily News Archive
Fr. John Kochuroff in this church in 1905 (public domain)

I tried to get an “interesting” point of view on the icon of St. John; it’s still an interesting picture, but the icon is not terribly clear.

(Louis Sullivan makes an appearance in this icon in the middle panel on the left)

Being Chicago, there are still people out and about the entire time; it seems somehow strange that they can pass by without any idea of what is taking place inside.

I think Divine Liturgy was finished about 2:30am; afterwards baskets, mainly filled with items of food that ought not to have been consumed during the fast, are blessed, and people sit down and break bread together.

The sweet bread, the butter, red eggs, meats, and for the kids, of course, the sweets!

We drove home afterward, which isn’t the easiest thing to do when the ride is over an hour back. Until Ascension, we greet each other with “Christ is Risen!/Indeed He is risen!” to remember that this is a season, not just a day. This week is “Bright Week”, and no regular fasting (Wednesday and Friday) is allowed.

(For anyone interested in seeing a professional “360 degree” site of Holy Trinity, this can be found here:

dore canto 31 white rose

If you enjoy my posts, please consider:

  • Giving this post a “like”
  • Sharing this post
  • Subscribing to the blog
  • Pledging monetary support
  • Subscribing to my YouTube or channels
  • Patronizing the links that support this blog

Thank you very much!

4 thoughts on “Pascha at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago

  1. What a wonderful tour you have given us. I love following the links to the singing and hymns. And the icon of St. John is really special! It shows up well. Thank you for all. I’m glad you made it home safe afterward — carried by angels no doubt! Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! I had no idea about a service like this. I hope it isn’t rude to ask but why do they hold it so late? Were your kids asleep in the pews? I’d be a zombie! Lol!

    I loved hearing about it and seeing all the photos and videos! Thank you for sharing.


    1. From what I understand, it’s not a sense of wanting to do it late, but that the new day starts at midnight, so that’s the earliest that one can start the services for the day – Matins, which are “morning prayers” and then Divine Liturgy, where Communion is always a part of it. And with celebrating Christ’s Resurrection, of course one would want to celebrate as soon as one could!

      There are churches that do it differently, for one reason or another. The one church that we went to – in the same jurisdiction – had permission to have the service at 7am on account of that fact that there were a lot of elderly folks and the neighborhood had become somewhat sketchy. For some reason, and I don’t know why, the Serbs tend to do the Matins part at midnight and then have Liturgy at the normal Sunday time.

      The kids were kind of zombies. I think my 13-year-old was up for everything, and then the three in the middle (11, 9, and 6) spent some time napping here and there. My 3-year-old was up the whole time, and she found a friend in a little boy who was probably about 18 months, so the two of them were having a blast bouncing around. She also was not happy that I wouldn’t let her hold a lit candle for more than about 10 seconds. A lot of Orthodox churches don’t have many chairs since it’s customary to stand through most of the majority of services, and so for anything like this, it’s pretty common to have kids sleeping near the back or across or under chairs. (Our church in Idaho had their church hall in a building connected to the church, and so our kids – 2 of them then – even brought sleeping bags for the inevitable time when they’d conk out.)

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s