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Δευτέρα, 13 Απριλίου 2015

GREEK ORTHODOX EASTER


By Carol McPhail | cmcphail@al.com 
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on April 10, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated April 10, 2015 at 10:41 AM

No pastel pinks, yellows or blues here. In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the eggs are all red.
"The red symbolizes the blood of Christ," explains Demetrios Golfos, pastoral assistant at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in midtown Mobile. "The color of red is predominant, especially after Holy Week for the Resurrection. It's a celebratory color."
Red eggs are just one facet of Eastern Orthodox Easter, which is called the Great Pascha and falls this year on Sunday, April 12, one week after Western churches celebrate Easter. The dates of Easter for Western and Eastern churches don't always align, mostly because the two faith traditions rely on different calendars. (Western churches use the Gregorian calendar while Eastern churches use the older, Julian calendar.) There's more to it than that - including how the two position Easter in relation to the Hebrew Passover - but that's the gist of it.
Mireia Saad, who converted to the Greek Orthodox Church from Protestantism five years ago, says she calls the dual holidays "Easter" and "Wester." "I still call my parents on Easter," she said. "The fact that He is risen has not changed."
At Annunciation, a few parishioners gathered Thursday afternoon to dye 30 dozen eggs red. "It's a secret," says Rita Tziotis, when asked the recipe for the dye. Needless to say, the plan involves vinegar and a certain red element. Tziotis places the eggs in an industrial-size tilting skillet to boil for 15 minutes. She adds the special red mixture and cooks them for 10 more.
When that's finished, the eggs emerge a brilliant scarlet and are then hand-polished with cooking oil to give them shine and seal the color.
A parishioner drops by to see if Tziotis give him a couple of eggs. "When they're blessed," she scolds, but lets him take two anyway.
Some Orthodox believers connect the red eggs to an interaction between Mary Magdalene and Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar. According to the story, Mary Magdalene announces to the ruler that Christ had risen from the dead. Tiberius then challenges Mary's assertion by saying that eggs in a nearby basket should turn from white to red.  The story says that they did.
This week is an extremely busy one for Annunciation parishioners, who are preparing for Pascha with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Last weekend saw activities surrounding the Bible story of the raising of Lazarus on Saturday followed by Palm Sunday. Services continue each day during Holy Week -- with the usual morning services held in the evening and usual evening services held in the morning to emphasize the upside-down nature of the season.
Annunciation's priest, Rev. Elias Stevens, described the week as "exhilarating but exhausting, very peaceful."
Holy Week culminates with a vigil held at 11 p.m. on Saturday. This is the Resurrection service, a multisensory experience that lasts into the early morning hours of Sunday. The red eggs are blessed at the end of this service, and everyone breaks their fast to celebrate Christ's resurrection.
Greek Orthodox Christians will greet each other with the phrase "CHRISTOS ANESTE," which means, "Christ is risen!" and tap an egg against someone else's egg.
The expected response is "ALITHOS ANESTI," which means "Truly, He is risen."
Whoever is left with an unbroken egg is said to have a blessing for the year.


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