Archangel Michael is the angel that the little wooden church in my village is devoted to. As a child, I never gave much conscious thought to it. Yet the church played a part in our lives, for some more than for others, in days when the village was still busy with people tending their fields and gardens.
It was the mass on Easter Sunday that held a special place in my family. Early, early in the morning, when the sun was nowhere near rising, I could hear my grandma preparing the basket for being blessed by the holy water in the church: butter, salt, pascha, hrudka, beautifully decorated eggs, beet salad, ham and sausages. When I was strong enough to fight my sleepiness, I sneaked down to her room and sat on the bed observing this sacred moment. There was something serene in the air. So much care was exerted in placing the food in the basket properly and in covering it with a white cloth embroidered with motives of spring. And then off the women went.
The mass was early because the priest had several villages to cover. It was always too cold and too dark for us children to go for the beginning of the mass, so we usually came in the second half. That's when it got interesting. After the priest blessed the uncovered baskets with the holy water and finished the sermon, the bells started to ring loud and crazy, almost as if warning us about some danger. They were so loud, right above our heads! At that point all the people covered their baskets, grabbed them and started running home - grandmas, grandpas, old and young, everyone was running. Why? Because everybody wanted to be the first to eat the blessed food that day! I can't remember the reason, but it must have been worth it.
Years later, when cars became more common, those who lived further from the church drove back home so that they could win this holy race. But I considered that cheating, plain and square, so I continued running to our house - the very last house in the village.