Fr. Nicholas Anctil of Holy Trinity, New Rochelle, Speaks about Holy Week and Anastasis

Fr. Nicholas Anctil distributes the Paschal red eggs to his parishioners. (Photo: Holy Trinity parish New Rochelle Ν.Υ.)

The Holy Trinity parish in New Rochelle, New York is a well-organized parish of the Archdiocese. It is comprised of more than six hundred families but it serves many more in the area. Its presiding priest, Fr. Nicholas Anctil, spoke to The National Herald about the preparations, the Services, the participation, and generally the climate at the parish during Holy Week and Pascha.

Fr. Nicholas said that, “beginning from the Saturday of Lazarus, all I do is concentrate on conducting the Holy Services and hearing Confessions on Holy Monday to Holy Thursday.  Beginning on Holy Thursday I need to concentrate on preparing for the beautiful and amazing Services.” He emphasized that, “we need to prepare ourselves to deliver good sermons and, believe it or not, we have to spend time preparing the inside of the church to make sure the Services go smoothly, that the Church is in perfect order, and the Parish Council is available to facilitate the parishioners.”

He also said that, “Easter Sunday and the celebration of Pascha for me and Cyndi – his presbyetera – after all the Services, can be anti-climactic. We are so excited to be with family and friends here in the parish to celebrate the Great Feast…but we are also exhausted! How many times in the past few years would we leave a beautiful and spirited Pascal celebration because I was almost falling asleep! You know what they say; Christ is risen but the priest is dead!”

Fr. Nicholas Anctil giving the light of the Resurrection to a small child during the Agape Vespers on Easter Sunday. (Photo: Holy Trinity parish New Rochelle Ν.Υ.)

Asked if he is going to do something special this year, he said “not really. I do plan on being better prepared for all the Services. We no longer have a full time second-priest in the parish, so I need to be diligent concerning all aspects, and properly conducting all the Services of Holy Week.”

Speaking about the participation of the youth in the Holy Services he said that, “the young people are a part of almost all the Services.  We have a Saturday of Lazarus retreat where all the young children prepare the Palms for Palm Sunday and even make “Lazarus Breads” in remembrance of the Rising of Lazarus.  We do a procession with the children on Palm Sunday and also on Easter Sunday at the end of the Agape Vesper Service. They read the Epistle lessons on Holy Wednesday and assist in the preparation of the Church for Holy Friday Services.  They also prepare the Church following Holy Saturday morning Liturgy. We have a tremendous dinner following the Anastasis Liturgy with around 300 people, and the young people prepare the room with decorations and set all the tables.”

Regarding questions the children ask about Holy Week, Fr. Nicholas said, “I have made it a big part of my ministry over the years to speak to the children every Sunday after the Gospel lesson. I ask them questions and in return, they ask me questions concerning the Gospel. I always do my best to allow them to ask questions on Saturday of Lazarus, Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday and Holy Friday afternoon. The children are always asking “why” did Christ have to be crucified if he truly was and is the Son of God.  Did the Resurrection really happen?  Why do we celebrate these events of Christ’s life every year since it was a historic event that took place almost 2000 years ago?”

Fr. Nicholas Anctil, presiding priest of the Holy Trinity parish in New Rochelle, NY during the Resurrection Service. (Photo: Holy Trinity parish New Rochelle Ν.Υ.)

Fr. Nicholas said that, “I am fortunate that the young people like to ask important questions each Sunday. Sometimes they are a little silly, but most times they think seriously about Christ and the Church. So many times, they ask the questions their parents are afraid to ask.”

When we asked what Pascha means to him he said, “personally, I am grateful every year for the gift of celebrating Pascha as a clergyman. I am humbled at the Altar every year because God gives me the chance to renew my faith and help my unbelief (I believe Lord, Lord help me in my ‘unbelief’).  With so many challenges being a clergyman in this generation, people’s disbelief, people’s sarcastic comments due to the crises our Archdiocese has gone through, the scandals of clergy misconduct, and the general negative attitudes that people have towards organized religions, Pascha gives me the chance to delve into the Holy Services to find solace and strength.”

He added that, “we are all so blessed be in full churches during these Holy days with people who want to believe.  We just have to show them the love of God during this time; especially to those whom we only see two or three times a year.”