GOARCH - April 7, 1998

Orthodox Christians Worldwide to Observe Easter April 19th

New York, NY - Easter will be celebrated on April 19th this year by over 250 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

"The Pascha of the Lord is by far the defining feast of joy and gladness in the life of our people, " says Archbishop Spyridon, spiritual leader of over 1.5 million Greek Orthodox in America, in his Easter Encyclical....."Calling us to partake of this radiant feast and banquet of the spirit, the Church seeks to ground us in the true faith- to ground us as persons enlightened by the all-glorious and never-ending light of the Risen Lord and of the Resurrection's redeeming grace. The Church does all this so that we might re-evaluate both our behavior and our entire way of life, so that we might renew our personal and communal lives, and this in the contexts of our families, our parishes, and our society at large...So that we might "..forgive all things in the Resurrection".

Archbishop Spyridon will officiate at Holy Week services in Greek Orthodox parishes in the metropolitan area including Good Friday Lamentations at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City and Resurrection services Saturday evening at St,Nicholas Church, Flushing, NY.

Centuries-old religious services which recall the passion, crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ are conducted each morning and evening throughout Holy Week in Orthodox Christian Churches in the Americas serving some 6 million faithful.

On Palm Sunday during the Divine Liturgy, palms are blessed and distributed to the faithful commemorating Christ's entrance into Jerusalem.

On Holy Wednesday the faithful are anointed with the Sacrament of Holy Unction, blessed oil, which cleanses, renews and strengthens both spiritually and physically.

On Holy Thursday evening, the Service of Holy Passion takes place, during which the Twelve Lessons of the Gospel are read. After the Fifth Gospel a solemn litany begins. A large crucifix is carried in a procession led by the clergy as the mournful hymn of Crucifixion is sung.

On Good Friday afternoon the Vespers of the Descent from the Cross are offered. The Body of Christ is taken down from the Cross, wrapped in white linen and is prepared for burial.

On Good Friday evening, the Lamentations are sung the Epitaphios Service which symbolizes the burial of Christ.

On Holy Saturday evening, the Easter Resurrection Service begins with Matins at 11 p.m. At midnight, the Church is completely darkened and the faithful wait in joyous expectation for the Bishop or priest to come forth carrying a white candle, chanting, Come;Receive the Light, the Light of the Resurrection. The light is passed to the congregation until the Church is ablaze with the glow of candlelight. A procession of altar boys, choir, chanters and clergy joined by the people move outdoors where the Gospel proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ is read. The triumphant hymn, Christos Anesti, Christ is Risen is joyously sung by the faithful. At the conclusion of the Resurrection Liturgy, red Easter eggs are distributed to the congregation which symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On Easter Sunday the Vespers of Agape (Love) are celebrated with the Holy Gospel of the Resurrection read in several languages emphasizing the universality of Christ's teaching of love and peace.

The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. According to this decree, Easter must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox but always after the Jewish Passover to maintain the Biblical sequence of events of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Orthodox Christian Churches have adhered strictly to this formula. However, the commemoration of Easter by other Christian Churches is not necessarily preceded by the Passover.

  April 7, 1998 ]