Holiday Almanac: Easter this year unites Eastern and Western Christians
Christians celebrate today as Easter, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter, the greatest holiday of the Christian year, ratifies for believers the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God.
As related in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the body of Jesus was wrapped and buried in a rocky tomb near Jerusalem. Women came three days later to embalm the corpse, but found it missing. Jesus then began appearing to various groups of his followers, with the commission to “make disciples of all nations.”
Sunrise services are common Easter Sunday celebrations, especially at the public beaches of South Florida. The events are often sponsored by two or more churches, or even by whole ministerial associations.
This year, Catholics and Protestants celebrate Easter on the same day as the world’s 200 million Eastern Orthodox Christians, who reckon some holy days by the ancient Julian calendar instead of the contemporary Gregorian calendar. The two celebrations are sometimes separated by more than a month, but they coincide roughly every four years.
At most Orthodox churches, the observances start with the Resurrection Service the previous night. 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, often leading the congregants in a procession. When they return, the church furnishings have been changed into white, for the resurrection.
The priest proclaims, “Christ is risen!”, in Greek, Russian, Arabic or other languages. The congregation then re-enters the church 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. At the end of the service, Greek Orthodox churches bless and distribute eggs colored red, to symbolize the resurrection.
— JAMES D. DAVIS