New York.- PASCHA will be celebrated on May 1 this year by over 250 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. In his Paschal Encyclical, Archbishop Demetrios of America, spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians in America and Chairman of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops representing over 6 million Orthodox Christians in the Americas, says:
“By receiving Christ into our lives through the Holy Sacraments of the Church and through our daily commitment to His divine will, we are given an unfading hope of glory, of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, of a new heaven and a new earth that is completely filled with the life and light of our Lord.”
“This hope that springs from the presence of the Risen Christ within us directs us to live each and every day preparing to receive ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading’ (I Peter 1:4). This was the way our beloved former Archbishop Iakovos lived his blessed life on earth before leaving us on April 10 to be forever with Christ in heaven. He left us a strong message that our life here and now is a journey toward heaven. We have been given this time to be reborn in the image of the Life-Giver, to live each day in faith, and to anticipate the fulfillment of all things and the great and glorious return of our Savior. Just as we have prepared ourselves to receive the Paschal light and affirm in joy and hymns the essence of our faith, we must use each day of our lives to prepare to receive our loving Lord, the King of glory.”
Archbishop Demetrios, will officiate at the Good Friday Service, April 29, beginning at 8:00 p.m. and Resurrection Service, April 26, beginning at l1:00 p.m. at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (319 E. 74th St., New York City). The Good Friday Lamentations and Resurrection Service will be broadcast Live on Television National Greek Television (NGTV) Time Warner Digital Channel 509 and ANTENNA SATELLITE NORTH AMERICA.
Archbishop Demetrios will officiate at Holy Week services in the following Greek Orthodox parishes: Lazarus Saturday Liturgy at Holy Trinity, Bridgeport, CT; Palm Sunday Liturgy, St. Sophia Cathedral, Washington DC; SS. Constantine and Helen, Washington, DC, Bridegroom Service, Sunday evening; Holy Trinity Hicksville, NY, Bridegroom Service, Monday evening; Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church, Brooklyn, Bridegroom Service, Tuesday evening; St. Demetrios Cathedral, Astoria, Bridegroom Service, Wednesday evening; Holy Thursday Liturgy, St. Paul Chapel, Archdiocese; Holy Passion, Thursday evening, St. Nicholas, Flushing; Good Friday Apokathelosis, St. Michael’s Home for the Aged and Good Friday Lamentations, Holy Trinity Cathedral; Saturday morning, Vespers/Divine Liturgy, St. Paul Cathedral, Hempstead, NY; Saturday evening Resurrection and Sunday Agape services at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.
Centuries-old religious services which recall the passion, crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ are conducted each morning and evening throughout Holy Week in Orthodox Christian Churches including: Greek, Russian, Romanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Albanian, Serbian and Ukrainian, which serve some 6 million faithful in the Americas.
On HOLY WEDNESDAY, the faithful participate in the Sacrament of Holy Unction, and anointed with blessed oil, which cleanses, renews and strengthens both spiritually and physically.
On HOLY THURSDAY MORNING, a Divine Liturgy is held and communion given in commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist by Christ.
On Holy Thursday EVENING, the Service of Holy Passion takes place, during which the Twelve Lessons of the Gospel are read. After the Fifth Gospel a solemn litany begins. A large crucifix is carried in a procession led by the clergy as the mournful hymn of Crucifixion is sung.
On GOOD FRIDAY AFTERNOON, the Vespers of the Descent from the Cross are offered. The Body of Christ is taken down from the Cross, wrapped in white linen and is prepared for burial.
On GOOD FRIDAY EVENING, the Lamentations are sung during the Epitaphios Service, which symbolizes the burial of Christ.
On HOLY SATURDAY EVENING, the Easter Resurrection Service begins with Matins at 11 p.m. At midnight, the Church is completely darkened and the faithful wait in joyous expectation for the Bishop or priest to come forth carrying a white candle, chanting, “Come, Receive the Light, the Light of the Resurrection”. The “light” is passed to the congregation until the Church is aglow with candlelight. A procession of altar boys, choir, chanters and clergy joined by the people move outdoors where the Gospel proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ is read. The triumphant hymn, “Christos Anesti, Christ is Risen” is joyfully sung by the faithful. At the conclusion of the Resurrection Liturgy, red Easter eggs are distributed to the congregation, which symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
On EASTER SUNDAY, the Vespers of AGAPE (Love) is celebrated during which the Holy Gospel narrating the appearance of the Risen Lord to His disciples is read in several languages emphasizing the universality of the Gospel message.
The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the First Ecumenical Council of the undivided Church at Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D. According to this decree, the determination of the date of Easter is governed by a computation based on the vernal equinox and the phase of the moon. Therefore, Easter Sunday should fall on the Sunday, which follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox, according to the Julian Calendar, which was in use at that time. If the full moon happens to fall on a Sunday, Easter is observed the following Sunday.