Τρίτη, 4 Μαΐου 2010

ORTHODOX EASTER

INTRODUCTION TO THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN HOLY WEEK

This week, people of Orthodox Christian dogma, around the world celebrate their Holy Week and Easter. The Easter is always the first Sunday after the fool moon of the spring equinox. In the case that is on the same day with the Jewish Pasha, we celebrate it one week later. Because of this fact the orthodox Easter is not always on the same date with the Catholic one. This year both dogmas have Easter on the same day. For us, this is a period of intense religious awareness and the best opportunity for personal recollection, change of heart and mind, and enjoyment of the inner happiness of the resurrection. Let us to guide you through the special customs of our Easter.

For Orthodox Christians around the world, the resurrection represents the culmination of the entire ecclesiastical year. It is the climax in the drama of Christ's passion. It is the reaffirmation of life, and as such it is the cause for the Festival of Festivals. Especially for the Greeks and Cyprus in particular (the only separated country of Europe, due to the Turkish army innovation) the Easter has the meaning of being free by the Empires which ruled our areas for centuries.

Throughout the week, called Great and Holy, the passion of Christ is recalled. The faithful participate in the services, and through the intensity of the entire liturgical and ceremonial activity, they truly relive passion.

This is a period of powerful emotions. From the victorious entrance in Jerusalem, to the moments overflowing with hope, prior to Christ's arrest, to the painful time of his agony and crucifixion, to the solemnity of the grave, and finally to the ecstasy of his resurrection, the faithful follow His steps, day by day, minute by minute, feeling the pain , the anger and the catharsis, the cleansing, the serenity and peace.

Kali Anastasi and Kalo Pasha These are the wishes we use this period.(Good Resurrection and Happy Easter)




Palm Sunday
The Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday (Kyriaki ton Vaion). The service of this day commemorates the triumphant entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, and signals the beginning of the short period leading to his passion. Six days before the Jewish Passover, Jerusalem becomes the scene of the realization of the messianic prophecy, which promised the arrival of the chosen one to bring salvation to His people. Jesus enters Jerusalem, and is greeted by crowds of people who cover the road with palm branches and praise him to the heavens. To reflect the joyous mood of the day, the priest celebrating the liturgy wears festive vestments, and the altar is adorned with a bright cover. The faithful hold palm branches or olive tree branches as did the crowds in Jerusalem, two millennia ago. When the priest is reading the Gospel, describing His entrance into Jerusalem, the people are waving the branches representing that moment.

The Nymfios(bridegroom) Servises

The services held on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, commemorate the various events and saying of the master before his final discussion with his disciples and the last supper. While each day has its own distinct character, all share in common the themes of mourning, repentance, vigilance and judgment. They are focused on the Parousia, the second coming. They are the days of the bridegroom who will come, unannounced, in the middle of the night. They represent the most urgent call to repentance, as the congregations prepare to address the mystery of death and resurrection.
During the evenings of Palm Sunday, Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday, the service of the bridegroom is chanted. On Monday evening a procession takes place within the church. Preceded by altar boys, the priest carries an icon of Christ, wearing the purple robe of ridicule and holding the mock scepter.



Holy Monday


Holy Monday. Nymfios and the parable of the 10 Virgins



The theme of Monday night is awareness, symbolized by the parable of the ten virgins, some of whom were caught not ready for the bridegroom to arrive. The parable suggests the need always to be ready, for judgment.

Holy Tuesday
On Tuesday night, the theme is repentance, as illustrated by the story of the sinful woman. In Orthodox tradition this woman has NOTHING to do with Maria of Magdala. (Maria of Magdala was a true believer from the very first moment. She was not sinful)
``She who was engulfed in sin, found thee, the heaven of salvation.
And She poured out the myrrh with her tears ... ''
On the same night, the beautiful hymn of Kassiani (a nun who lived in the 6th century), is sung:
``Oh my Savior and soul saver
who can trace out the multitude of my sins
and the abysses of thy judgment.
Do not disregard me, thy servant
oh thou whose mercy is boundless ...''

Holy Wednesday
On Wednesday, the church offers the congregation the sacrament of holy unction. The priest anoints the faithful with blessed oil, representative of the healing power of God. The scriptures connect bodily illness to sin. Christ confirms this connection when He says to the paralytic in healing him,
``your sins are forgiven''
He thus indicates that His power to forgive and His power to heal are two different aspects of the same ministry.
At the same time, we remember when Christ washed his students’ feet.

Holy Thursday
The most serious event of the Christian calendar is about to take place. Christ will be crucified tonight. His passion will be reenacted in the most soul searing service of the Orthodox Church. Twelve gospels will be read, three from each Evangelist) and many hymns will be sung, describing the events leading up to His crucifixion. The priests are wearing black. The icons are cover with black textiles. The lights are low in the churches. Outside the darkness of the night covers everything. The purpose of the lengthy service is to approximate Christ's suffering, to help the congregation feel that they are present at the passion. The meaning of the words, the sound of the chanting, the portrayal of the crucifixion, bring mind, body and soul together in the glory of the sacrifice. You will see blood spilled tonight. You will hear screams of hatred and pain. You will see mobs and soldiers and weeping women.
In the first gospel according to John, Christ tells his disciples that where He goes they cannot follow... Peter protests that he would lay down his life for Him ... and Christ tells him that before the rooster crows he will deny Him thrice. Then, He prophesies on the events of the next few hours ..., they will weep and lament but that the world will rejoice...
The second gospel according to John describes the betrayal by Judas Iscariot ... and Peter's denial ... Matthew then relates the interrogation of Christ, and the 4th and 5th gospels describe His trial and torture, leading up to the crucifixion on Golgotha. Pontius Pilate questions Him on the meaning of truth; then he tells the mob that the prisoner is innocent and that He should be released according to the Passover custom, but the mob chooses Barabbas instead. Pilate washes his hands, and Christ is led to the place of the skull, Golgotha, where soon He will be put to death. At this point the priest holding the big cross of the church is going around representing the walk to Golgotha. The only light is the one from the candles of the cross. The hymn being sung is the most moving of the entire Orthodox hymnal... The priests and the chanters are singing,
`Today is hung upon the wood
the one who suspended the land in the midst of the waters.
A crown of thorns crowns
him who is the king of angels...''
The believers, still frozen by the death of God, return to their houses ... Mary and the disciples go to mourn the sacrificed Son of God, and wait for His promised resurrection. The pain felt during the service of Thursday night will be followed by the solemnity of the next day.

Holy Friday
On Friday morning we witness the service of the apokathilosis, the taking down from the cross of the body of Christ: wrapped in a white sheet He is taken down and brought to the sanctuary. It is the day during which we do not eat cooked food or olive oil. Just bread and water. The shops open just for 4 hours. The bells are ringing in a sad way. It is Holy Friday!
In the evening the gold embroidered ceremonial cloth, called the epitaphios, posture the depiction of the dead Christ, is brought out in solemn procession and placed to rest on a wooden sepulcher, the kouvouklion. This becomes the setting for the evening liturgy, considered by many as the most beautiful service in the Orthodox Church.
Each congregant, regarded as the living icon of God, experiences Christ's death personally, as she or he will experience His resurrection. As the hymns of the lamentation are sung this night, we will feel the piercing grief and hope, mingling within each individual, and rising with the smoke and incense in a prayer for a new beginning. The hymns of lamentation, as they are sung in the original Greek, rank with the most beautiful ever written in any language. They commence with the singing of the hymn
``Η Ζωή εν τάφω...'' Life In The Tomb...
``Who will give me water
and a fountain of tears
to weep for my sweet Lord...''.
Then, at the height of the service a triumphant hymn is sung:
``Αι γενεαί πάσαι...
ύμνον τη ταφή σου
προσφέρουσιν Χριστέ μου'' ``All Generations offer adoration to thy entombment ...
Let all creation bring triumphal hymns to its Creator ...
Do thou, thrice blessed Joseph of Arimathea
take charge of the body of Christ, the life giver''
The loveliest part of this hymn is a tender couplet of maternal love ...
``'Ω! γλυκύν μου έαρ
γλυκύτατον μου τέκνον
πού έδοιν σοι το κάλλος;'' ``O my sweet springtime
my most beloved child
whither has thy beauty sunk down ...''
Following the lamentations, the procession of the epitaphios begins. In most churches around the world, the entire tomb of Christ is carried in a sad procession through the city... In the center of Pafos, three epitaphios wind through the streets of the town, meet in the square opposite of our school. The philharmonic orchestra of the city is playing the hymns of the day.

Holy Saturday
The first good news reaches the people on Saturday morning, during the celebration of St. Basil's liturgy.
The priest walks through the congregation scattering laurel leaves, symbolizing victory over death, the people in the church are making noise with their chairs representing the earthquake when Christ entered the death valley. The bells are ringing with joy again after days...



Easter Sunday
On Sunday evening, the most important service of the entire Orthodox ecclesiastical year is celebrated. It is the resurrection service, when the priest will confirm the news of this wondrous event to the congregation. The church is darkened, symbolic of the darkness of the tomb. Then the priest, carrying a white candle from the eternal vigil light on the holy altar, proclaims:
``Come ye and receive light from the unwading light...''
The church slowly fills with the flickering light of hope that has become reality. Children have candles decorating with flowers. The adults have white.
The following scene is taking place out of the church in the yard. The news from the resurrection is read from the gospel according to Mark... And then the brief and vibrant hymn of the resurrection is sung. It starts as w whisper from the priest's lips, to grow into an explosive triumphant hymn sung by the entire congregation. This is taking place some minutes after midnight.
Χριστός Ανέστη εκ νεκρών
θανάτω θάνατον πατήσας
και της εν τη μνήμασι
ζωής χαρισάμενος Christ has risen from the dead
by dead trampling upon death
and has bestowed life
to those in the tombs.
All the people waving their candles and they start kissing the others saying the good news: Christos Anesti (Christ is resurrected) and the other answers: Alithos Anesti (He resurrected it is true).
When the service comes to end (at 2 o’clock in the morning) we go back home to have our magiritsa a traditional soup made from lamp and vegetables. We break our red eggs (they were colored on Holy Thursday) and we wish each other. We take the candles with the holy light into all the rooms of the house. In the picture you can see how the church is looking at the time of resurrection ceremony.

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