Greek Orthodox Easter Religious Service Overview
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Greek Orthodox Easter, also known as Pascha, is a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. It is the most significant holiday of the Orthodox Church. This day is a feast which starts its liturgical celebration in the late hours of the night on Saturday before Easter Sunday. There are a lot of services that take place during this time, and the big one actually begins on the evening of Holy Saturday. There are usually also vespers on Easter Sunday (Pascha). Here’s more information:
Easter Service Begins on Saturday Evening
The Orthodox churches are mostly filled to capacity for the first part of the Easter vigil on Saturday night. It begins with the Paschal Matins or Resurrection Matins. It is at this time that the solemn Odes of Lamentation are recited. This part is a repetition of the service of Friday night. These lamentations are in reference to the sadness of the Mother of Jesus whose son was crucified. It is at this time that the cantor chants the Nocturne service.
They pray that they will be worthy to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ which starts at midnight. All of this ceremony is representative of the end of the 40 days of the Lenten season that preceded this night when believers adhered to strict fasting of a vegan diet. It also marks the beginning of the next 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus.
Start of Easter Sunday Occurs During the Evening Saturday Service
This is the moment for which all the participants have been waiting. It begins the celebration of the risen Christ.
Midnight begins the Easter procession. It represents the passing over of death to life. As the faithful make their way out of the church, this hymn is sung:
“Your Resurrection, O Christ our Savior,
the angels in heaven praise with hymns.
Make us, on earth, also worthy, with a pure heart,
to extol and give glory to You.”
Up until now, all has been dark. The participants in the procession light their candles. After circling the church, they come around again to the front where the doors are closed. After the celebrant blesses them, the Easter hymns are sung, and the Psalm versed are recited, the congregation re-enters the church.
From this point, nothing is recited, but everything is sung, representative of the complete joy of the occasion. The priest is dressed in bright garments. The celebrant proclaims the Paschal Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom, inviting all to partake of Christ, the Lamb of God, in Holy Communion. The Resurrection Troparion is the music of the background as the congregation shares in the Eucharist.
Easter Sunday Vespers
In the afternoon on Easter Sunday, the congregation gathers once again. This service is also called Service of Agape, agape meaning love. With lighted candles, they begin their prayers, The Paschal Vespers of Love. The Christian principles of love and forgiveness are the fruits of the sacrifice of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to be exemplified in all who call themselves His. At the end of the service the congregants form a line to greet one another and embrace each other with the love of Christ.
The profundity of this Easter celebration is in its reminder to Christians everywhere, of all countries in the world, that Christ is risen. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the reason we are to love not only those who love us but to love those who also hate us. This is the deeper meaning of the Resurrection in the lives of believers.
This post was written by GreekBoston.com