Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Greek Orthodox Easter

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a Greek Orthodox Easter service, at the invitation og my friend from work-who I've blogged about before. (Whilst on the topic of Greek Easter-I was interested to learn that there was no soccer games played last weekend, as the comp is run by the Greeks!)

I arrived a bit late, and I have never seen so mnay people trying to get into a church, there was seriously 3000 people trying to squeeze into this 600 seat church! The streets were all blocked off, cars everywhere, it was huge.

I was standing around for a while, then everything inside the church went black, before people came streaming out with candles, which they then passed to each other, and there was copious kissing on the cheeks all round. I later found out this symbolised the Christ-light overcoming the darkness of the grave etc, and everybody was kissing each other as a celebration.

I think the thing I loved about the whole experience was the rituals and symbolism-something that we're generally pretty devoid of in the Protestant Church.

Things like crossing yourself-something I only ever associated with the Catholic Church, actually has some really cool meanings behind it, but has unfortunately become a bit of a dead tradition to many of the people who practise it.

I then moved into the church for the traditional service, which was all Greek to me-literally! which went for a couple of hours-which is way longer than I'm used to! I struggle when our church gets near an hour and a half! I liked the little tradition of going up and kissing the Bible-a sign of their respect and reverence for the Scriptures.

Communion-or Eucharist as they call it, is a big affair. The priest goes behind the little partition, blesses the bread and wine, which they then believe becomes the literal Body and Blood of Christ. Everybody who has in that week been to Confession, fasted at least once during the week and for twelve hours before church, is able to come up and receive the elements. If you haven't done these things you can't take part. The bread and wine are then mixed together, and placed in the mouths of all those who come up the front to take it with a spoon by the priest. A very different understanding of the Lord's invitation to share a meal at his table and remember Him than mine, but thats cool.

I found it intriguing how they read the Bible out aloud, its half sung half spoken in a melodic lilting tone. The other thing that was the most intriguing weas the interior of the church itself, so many decorations, icons, candles and pictures. It truly is a sight to behold-something that can't be described in words. Which is I think why they decorate theirchurches like that-to try and reveal some parts of God's story which just cannot be described in words-very postmodern :)

All up, it was a fantastic experience, and something I recomment everybody do at least once-I know I'll be going again next year.


AJ said...

Have been to a few Greek easters myself diggs. i was pretty young when i went though, but i can most definitely remember some of the ritualistic activities you mentioned. not sure if it was the actual easter service, or good friday-ish service, but i remember walking around dandenong with a casket late at night. at any service, there was always heaps of (free) candles, and kissing of icons etc. isn't it amazing, how high the spiritual traditions are held in the greek orthodox community! i remember thinking that i had stepped back a good couple thousand years at the service- and as for the length of the service, im way sure that me and my greek buddies left after about 10 mins to go and light some firecrackers.

Digger said...

Hey bro, na the worst thing is they don't let you do fireworks anymore! I was shattered!
Yeah it might have been Good Friday by the sounds of it.

Yeah the traditions thing is funny hey, often we poo-poo tradition yet they so esteem it. They're fully proud of the fact they're still doing it the same as they ahve for the last few hundred years.

I really think there's something in that-we've got so much to learn from those who've gone before us. We can change the forms of how we do and be church, but there's still heaps of cool stuff we can learn.

Kathryn said...

Hey there! Found your blog when i was doing a search on Greek Easter, it's very cool and i really appreciated your description of visiting the church. Nice to 'meet' you :)

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