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Orthodox Christians to Observe Pascha (Easter) April 15

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Apr 9, 2012

NEW YORK – More than 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide will celebrate Pascha (Easter) this coming Sunday, April 15. Faithful in great numbers crowd churches for Holy Week services and in preparation for the Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection of Christ.

“On this day and in the celebration of Holy Pascha, we are blessed in so many ways.  We are called by the hymnological canon of the feast to ‘partake of the new fruit of the vine of divine gladness and of the Kingdom of Christ,’” says Archbishop Demetrios, spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians in America in his Easter Encyclical. “The Holy Resurrection of our Lord affirms that as the True Vine, He is the source of life.  He has made it possible and now guides us in being connected to His presence and the power of His Resurrection through faith.” And His Eminence concludes his message:

These blessings, this fruit of Pascha that is produced in our lives as the Risen Lord is in our midst, are not for us alone.  They are a witness of the grace and power of God through our worship, and they are blessings we are called to share with all of humanity.  In the joy and light of this day, our hearts are so filled with gladness that we cannot but speak of things we have seen and heard.  Our attitudes, words, and actions, our response to the needs of others reveal a source of strength, love and peace.  Our lives are a witness of Pascha, guiding all around us to encounter a Risen and Redeeming Christ.”

Yesterday, Palm Sunday April 8, Archbishop Demetrios of America presided at the Divine Liturgy of Palm Sunday at the Greek Orthodox Shrine Church of St. Nicholas in Flushing, N.Y. On Palm Sunday in all Orthodox Churches around the world, palms are blessed during the Divine Liturgy and distributed to the faithful commemorating Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem.

Throughout Holy Week, centuries-old religious services which recall the passion, crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ are conducted each morning and evening 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.

In the evening of Palm Sunday and Holy Monday, the beautiful and solemn service of Nymphios (the service of the Bridegroom) is held as Holy Week begins.

On Holy Tuesday evening church services include the poetic and moving hymn of repentance, known as the Troparion of Saint Kassiani.

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 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 ablaze with the glow of candlelight. A procession of altar boys, choir, chanters and clergy joined by all the faithful 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, which symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, are distributed to the congregation.

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.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, will be visiting the Phanar the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) on Holy Wednesday and Holy Thursday where he will attend Holy Week services and the completion of the services of the sanctification of the Holy Myrrh which is prepared there once every ten years.

On Good Friday evening, Archbishop Demetrios will preside at the service of Lamentations and Epitaphios in the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (319 East 74th St. New York City.) He will also proclaim the Resurrection, again in the Archdiocesan Cathedral, on the evening of Holy Saturday (starting at 11:00 p.m.) and immediately following will celebrate the Paschal Divine Liturgy.

This year the date of Orthodox Pascha does not coincide with the celebration of Western Easter. The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the Council of Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D.  According to this decree, Easter must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox but always after the Hebrew Passover to maintain the biblical sequence of events of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Orthodox Christian Churches have adhered strictly to this formula.

Contact: Stavros Papagermanos

Tel.:  (212) 570-3530

Email:  pressoffice@goarch.org

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