Friday, April 10, 2015

Holy Friday, Orthodox Easter (Pascha) and Blessings

Perhaps you have seen this blog post by Rita Wilson (actress in her own right, Greek Orthodox and Tom Hanks' wife). It compares some of the differences between Eastern Orthodox Pascha and Easter as celebrated by western churches. I'll leave it to her to explain some of the differences and let you read her blog post there. 

For me, the weekend really begins the week before: Holy Week. It is about more than just Pascha and Christ rising from the Dead. Sort of. It is about the whole process moving from Christ in the Garden to being on the Cross. And we commemorate those events in various ways throughout the process of Lent. 

Last night was Holy Thursday. We read the story of Christ going to the garden to pray, His arrest, and all the way through to the tomb being empty, from each of the four Gospel accounts told of the story - so 12 gospel readings in all; many churches read them in a very dark room, while you kneel. 

Holy Friday, the service starts out by commemorating Christ in the tomb. We sing the Noble Joseph, at the beginning and it really is just a beautiful and moving song. 


This is not our church, nor even my favorite rendering of the song, but does give a pretty good view of what the service looks like for many churches. 

The words to Noble Joseph are worth writing out - they'll be at the bottom of this post. They are quite moving. 

This is the Epitaphios - (picture from this blog which gives
an excellent explanation of the service and the whys behind
it, that I am not equipped to do.)
At the end of Holy Friday service, the tomb is found empty, and the service ends in silence as we approach an icon reminding us of the tomb and the sacrifice done for us. The altar is stripped down and all is bare.

On Pascha - Easter - at the beginning, we proceed with the tomb being empty, and just before midnight, we have a procession around the church, in the dark (with candles.) We end at the closed door, where the priest bangs on the door and shouts a challenge to someone inside to open the door. At the end, the lights are turned fully up, shouts ring out, the bare cross is shown (because Christ is no longer there), and we sing 
Christ is risen from the deadTrampling down death by death,And upon those in the tomb bestowing life!
interspersed with Liturgy prayers followed by Communion and often a rather large post-Lenten feast.

In one small change from the blog post mentioned at the beginning of this - many churches do have an egg hunt for kids at a Sunday Agape service or on St. Thomas Sunday the following week. But never directly in connection with Pascha, and just for the fun of the kids.

The words to The Noble Joseph:

God is the Lord
and hath revealed Himself to us
Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord

The noble Joseph,
when he had taken down Thy most pure body from the Tree,
wrapped it in fine linen and anointed it with spices,
and placed it in a new tomb

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…

When Thou didst descend to death O Life Immortal,
Thou didst slay hell with the splendor of Thy Godhead!
And when from the depths Thou didst raise the dead,
all the powers of heaven cried out:
O Giver of Life! Christ our God! Glory to Thee!

…now and ever and unto ages of ages

The angel came to the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb
and said,
myrrh is fitting for the dead
but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption 

Blessings to all on this Holy Friday.

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