“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” – New Testament, 1 Corinthians, 15:55
Easter Saturday is always full of preparations for the great festival the next day. We did our shopping in the morning and then back home where we spent most of the day getting ready for the evening. Saturday night marks the most glorious liturgy in the Greek Orthodox faith with the vespers leading to the great service of the Resurrection, which begins at midnight.
Usually even non-religious Greeks will attend this glorious liturgy and just before midnight, will observe all the lights being put out in the church except for a lone holy flame burning in the holy of holies. From this ever-burning light the priest will light his Paschal candle and go out into the church and call out: “Come take the light!” The faithful light their own Paschal candles from this and soon the whole congregation that spills out into the surrounds of the church carry aloft their lit candles waiting for the priest to chant the resurrection message:
Χριστός Ανέστη εκ νεκρών,
θανάτω θάνατον πατήσας
και τοις εν τοις μνήμασιν,
Christ is risen from dead,
On death treading victorious,
And to those in the grave
He gives the gift of life.
Fireworks are let off, firecrackers lit, people kiss each other as red dyed eggs are cracked. Each greets the other with the Resurrections messages:
Χριστός Ανέστη! – “Christ is risen!”
Αληθώς Ανέστη! “Truly he is risen!”
When the liturgy finishes, everyone hurries home, carrying their lit candles, which they must take home unextinguished so that they bring the holy light of the Resurrection home, thus blessing it. As the head of the household enters the threshold, a cross is made on the lintel of the front door with the smoke of the candle. The Lenten fast is then broken with “mayirítsa”, the traditional rich soup made of lamb offal, dill, spring onions, all in a tart egg-and-lemon sauce. The rest of the lamb will be consumed the next day as it is roasted on the spit whole…
Καλό Πάσχα! - Happy Easter!