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Theology

Greek Orthodox Easter

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GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA 8-10 East 79th St. New York, NY 10021 Tel: (212) 570-3530 Fax: (212)

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NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: April 23, 2002 Contact: Nikki Stephanopoulos

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS WORLDWIDE TO OBSERVE EASTER MAY 5TH CONSECRATION OF CHRISM HOLY THURSDAY MAY 2ND AT ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE OF CONSTANTINOPLE

New York, NY – Easter will be celebrated on May 5th this year by over 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the First Ecumenical Council of the undivided Church at Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D. under Emperor Constantine the Great. According to this decree, the determination of the date of Easter is governed by a computation based on the vernal equinox and the phase of the moon. Therefore, Easter Sunday should fall on the Sunday, which follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox, according to the Julian Calendar, which was in use at that time. If the full moon happens to fall on a Sunday, Easter is observed the following Sunday.

“In our times” says Archbishop Demetrios, spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox in America, in his Easter Encyclical, ” we have endured the bitterness and the impasse that human existence faces as a matter of daily life. Last September, we saw the ugly and dark face of death and destruction. We touched our own fragility, vulnerability and subjugation to the limited character of our own existence. The Resurrection of Our Lord, however, with a sudden, decisive movement signifies the death of death, the end our subjugation to perishability. This is because it does not speak about a general immortality or of an unlimited continuation of our earthly life, but of a Resurrection that comes precisely after the experience of all of these negative realities by our Lord. Therefore, we can truly rejoice and powerfully celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, which becomes in essence our own Resurrection and our own sharing with Him in life that is triumphant, jubilant and never- ending in the presence and embrace of God who is life.”

CONSECRATION OF HOLY CHRISM

In the Orthodox Church, the Holy Myrrh (Chrism) is consecrated for use in the Sacrament of Chrismation as a visible sign of the imparting of the Holy Spirit to those who have been baptized. Holy Myrrh is also used in the consecration of churches for anointing the altar and icons of a new church.

The consecration of Myrrh takes place approximately once each decade at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This year, on Holy Thursday, May 2nd, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will lead in the preparation of the Holy Myrrh. The Patriarch will be joined by a large number of hierarchs from several of the Autocephalous Churches and from Churches of the Patriarchate throughout the world, including His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America who will be in Constantinople from Tuesday through Thursday of Holy Week.

Archbishop Demetrios will officiate at Holy Week services in Greek Orthodox parishes in the metropolitan area including: Palm Sunday Liturgy at Zoodochos Peghe, The Bronx; Bridegroom Service, Sunday evening, St. Nicholas, Flushing; Bridegroom Service, Monday evening, Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church, Brooklyn and Good Friday Lamentations and Resurrection services Saturday at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (319 East 74th St. New York City). Good Friday services will begin at 8:00 p.m. and Resurrection Services Saturday evening at 11:00 p.m.

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 including: Greek, Russian, Romanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Albanian, Serbian and Ukrainian, which serve some 6 million faithful in the Americas.

On PALM SUNDAY during the Divine Liturgy, palms are blessed and distributed to the faithful commemorating Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem.

On PALM SUNDAY EVENING, as well as on the evenings of Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the faithful gather for the Nymphios or Bridegroom Services that include readings, hymns, and commemorations that anticipate the Passion of Christ.

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 MORNING, a Divine Liturgy is held and communion given in commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist by Christ.

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 during 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 aglow with 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 joyfully 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) is celebrated during which the Holy Gospel narrating the appearance of the Risen Lord to His disciples is read in several languages emphasizing the universality of the Gospel message.

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