THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN HOLY WEEK

This week, as we know people of Orthodox Christian faith around the world celebrate their Holy Week and Easter. For them, this is a period of intense religious awareness and the best opportunity for personal recollection, change of heart and mind, and enjoyment of the inner happiness of the resurrection. Tonight I thought I would take you for a journey through the stories, the sights, and the sounds of this week, as experienced by most of us Greeks of the Diaspora, along with our brothers and sisters sharing our tradition, and with those of other faiths and traditions who join us in meditation and celebration during this important aspect of our culture.

For Orthodox Christians around the world, the resurrection represents the culmination of the entire ecclesiastical year. It is the climax in the drama of Christ's passion. It is the reaffirmation of life, and as such it is the cause for the Festival of Festivals.

Our listeners may find it odd that most of the time the Eastern and Western churches celebrate the resurrection with a difference of one week or more. The first ecumenical synod, in 325 AD, determined that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox. That was a mathematical calculation based on the Hebrew lunar year. And it was what the Western churches, mainly the Catholic and Protestant denominations, follow in their celebration of Easter. There was a stipulation however. To wait for the conclusion of the Jewish Passover, and celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after that. The stipulation was based on the account of the Evangelists, describing how Christ celebrated Passover with his disciples, before his passion. So the Eastern Orthodox church, observing the chronological sequence of events, celebrates Easter after the conclusion of the Jewish Passover.

Throughout the week, called Great and Holy, the passion of Christ is recalled. The faithful participate in the services, and through the intensity of the entire liturgical and ceremonial activity, they truly relive passion.

This is a period of intense emotions. From the triumphant entrance in Jerusalem, to the moments filled with anticipation, prior to Christ's arrest, to the painful time of his torture and crucifixion, to the solemnity of the grave, and finally to the joy of his resurrection, the faithful follow his steps, day by day, minute by minute, feeling the pain and the elation, the anger and the catharsis, the cleansing, the serenity and peace.


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