Holiday Almanac: Easter celebrations start tonight for Eastern Orthodox Christians
The world’s 200 million-plus Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate tomorrow as Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead, several weeks after their fellow believers in Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.
The founding events are the same: Three days after Jesus’ corpse was entombed, women came to embalm it, but found the tomb open and empty. Jesus then appeared to them, then to his disciples, then to crowds of hundreds, before ascending into heaven.
However, the Eastern churches — Greek, Russian, Antiochian and other branches — calculate the date for Easter after the Julian calendar under a formula no longer used by Western churches.
At most Orthodox churches, the observances will start with the Resurrection Service tonight. At midnight, the pastor carries a lighted candle in the darkened sanctuary to proclaim, “Come, receive the light from the light that is never overtaken by night …”
The flame is passed on to his congregants’ candles. Then the pastor and choir sing hymns outside the church and return for the Pascha, the Easter liturgy. Sunday worship features an Agapé service, in which the biblical story of Jesus’ resurrection is read in several languages.
Greek Orthodox churches will bless and distribute red eggs at the end of the service to symbolize the resurrection.
— JAMES D. DAVIS