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Saturday Morning

Readers read from the Old Testament. Readers read from the Old Testament.

The service celebrates Christ's decent into hell to free Adam and Eve and all who lived and died in anticipation of the coming of Christ. The beautiful hymn from the Liturgy of St. James is sung, "Let all mortal flesh be silent."

Readers read from the Old Testament. Father Andrew reads.

During this Vesper service, 14 different readings from the bible are read. The readings all refer to resurrection. The white vestments for the priest and deacons are laid out in preparation. At the point when Christ raises out of hell, the covers are changed. The priest, deacon, and altar servers change their vestments from the somber dark colors of lent to white. The words "Let God arise," are said. The altar cloths and candle holders are also changed at this time. The Eucharist is extended into an agape meal consisting of wine, bread, fruit, dates, figs, and nuts before the strict fast begins.

Clergy change to white vestments. Icon cloth changed from purple to white.

Music Tradition

The choir hard at work...

In the Orthodox Church it is the tradition that all services are sung or chanted. The singing and chanting is done accapella, without the use of musical instruments. The human voice is the only instrument worthy of praising God in the new covenant. Actually, the bell is the only instrument allowed.

The choir hard at work...

The tradition of the Orthodox Church is one of congregational singing. The clergy, readers, and choir lead the congregation. Let us praise the Lord in song. The clergy, readers, and choir are to lead the congregation along.

The choir hard at work...

As many of the services have responses and hymns that are unique in their right, a tremendous volume of music needs to be learned and practiced.

The choir hard at work...

Saturday Night/Sunday Morning

Nocturns are sung at the Tomb.

Noctures and Procession, Matins of Pascha and Pascal Divine Liturgy - All the preparations have been for this night. The church is ready and the faithful have spent the day in strict fast. There is a sense of anticipation in the air. The church is darkened and the music selections are somber as during all of lent. The nocturns are sung at the tomb of Christ. All lights in the church are extinquished and there is a total darkness.

Father Andrew brings forth the Light of Christ.

At midnight the flame from a single candle appears at the altar. The priest brings forth the light of Christ and gives it to the rest of the faithful. The entire congregation leaves the church in procession and proceeds around the church 3 times. While they are doing this, the tomb is removed from the church, all the lights are turned on, and all candles are lit once again symbolizing Christ's resurrection.

Young Girls receive the Light to pass to parishioners.

Upon finishing the procession around the church, the congregation gathers at the closed front doors of the church. The Priest knocks on the doors three times saying: Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. And a voice asks: Who is this King of Glory? The priest answers: The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. The priest the knocks again saying: Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. And again the voice asks: Who is this King of Glory? The priest then replies: The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory. The doors are swung open and the priest reenters followed by the congregation.

Procession around the Church. Procession around the Church.

The entire tone of the service is changed. The dim interior of the church is gone. The dark vestments and candle holders are also gone. The tomb and somber music are also gone. The church is as bright as possible. The vestments are bright and the singing joyous. It is the triumphal resurrection of Christ saving us from death and granting us resurrection. Christ is risen! Glorify Him. The Hymn "Christ is Risen from the Dead" is sung repeatedly with joy and power. The Cry of "Christ is risen" and the response "Indeed he is risen." fill the air. This is proclaimed in many different languages.

OCA - Christ is Risen! / Indeed He is Risen!
Greek Diocese - Christ is Risen! / Truly He is Risen!
Greek - Christos Anesti! / Aleithos Anesti!
Slavonic - Christos Voskrese! / Voistinu Voskrese!
Arabic - Al-Masih-Qam! / Hakkan Qam!
Romanian - Christos E Anviat! / Adeverat Anviat!
Spanish - Christo Ha Resucitado! / Verdaderamente, Ha Resucitado!
German - Christus ist Auferstanden! / Jawohl Er ist Auferstanden
French - Le Christ est ressuscite! / En verite il est resuscite!
Japanese - Harisutosu Siochatsu! / Makoto-ni Siochatsu

At the conclusion of the service, everyone present receives a red egg and the baskets are laden with food are blessed. All are invited to break the fast and break bread together.

Parishioners receive red egg. Parishioners receive red egg.

Orthodox Christians as they are able, fast from all meat and dairy products for all of Holy Week and the preceeding forty days of Lent. After the Paschal Liturgy a pot luck dinner is served and as you can imagine, some serious eating goes on. The celebration lasts into the early hours of the morning.

Baskets Laden With Food Are Blessed.

Agape Vespers

Agape Vesper Service...

Pm Sunday afternoon following Paschal Liturgy, the Agape Vespers service is celbrated. The church is bright and alive and full of children anticipating the Pascha egg hunt. Following a procession proclaiming the Risen Christ, the congregation gathers together to hear readings from the four Gospels in different languages proclaiming that Christ is Risen.

The Gospels are read...

After the conclusion of the service, the children are turned loose on the unsuspecting eggs.

Children search for eggs... Children search for eggs...

Christ is Risen
Indeed He is Risen

THE DATING OF PASCHA (EASTER) IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

The Dating of Easter from the beginning was not a uniform thing. The earliest evidence from scriptures and tradition suggest that Jesus was crucified and died on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan, a Friday. This means Jesus would have been resurrected on the 16th of Nisan, a Sunday.

This gave rise to the practice of celebrating the Resurrection on the 16th of Nisan irrespective of the day of the week it fell on, much as we celebrate the 4th of July. This was particularly true of the Christians in the Holy Lands, but nowhere else. Also in the Holy Lands there was a small body of Christians who celebrated the entire passion event including the Resurrection the 14th of Nisan. This date was called by them, "the Stavrosimon Pascha," or "the Pascha of the Cross."

The bulk of the Christians, however, particularly those in the West were fairly consistent in celebrating Easter on Sunday, but there was no agreement as to which Sunday. Hadrian, the Bishop of Rome in the second century was fairly successful in getting the other western churches to follow his lead, but when he tried to impose his solution on the churches in the East he was rebuked by no less a person than St. Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna who died a martyrís death.

Things remained fairly confused until the year 325 AD when the issue was settled by the First Ecumenical Council convened in Nicea in Asia Minor. While convened by the Emperor Constantine to resolve another issue, this council, the first of the entire Christian Church, also tackled many other problems as well. One was the date of Easter.

The First Council came up with the following formula. "Easter shall be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring following the Jewish Passover." Thus all Christian Churches, east and west, celebrated Easter together for several centuries until the appearance of the "New" or "Gregorian" calendar.

The Gregorian Calendar was adopted first by the Roman Catholic Church, and later, in the 18th century by the Protestants.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches remained with the "Old" or "Julian" calendar until 1922, when some of them - the Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Antioch and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinopleó adopted the "New." The Slavic Churches, the Churches of Russia, Serbia, and also Mount Athos and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, have remained with the "Old." In this country the churches have adopted the New Calendar except for those with Slavic antecedents.

For Orthodox Christians Easter is the Feast of Feasts so for this one celebration all Orthodox Christians use the old Julian calendar, for the dating of the first day of spring, which is 13 days behind the new Gregorian. Sometimes the difference in the date of Easter between East and West can be as much as five weeks. Other times the celebrations coincide. With the Julian calendar Easter always falls after the Passover of the Jews.

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