Sunday, April 19, 2009

Χριστός Ανέστη! Christ is Risen!

So the past week was holy week here in Greece. We're on the Eastern Orthodox calendar, not the Roman Catholic, so we're a week off. This causes Christ to die and be resurrected twice a year, but whatever. That just makes him twice as cool, I suppose.

Anyway, I had the opportunity, nay, the privilege of attending the Good Friday and Resurrection services at the church right outside my house. My good friend here, Γωγώ, the one who's been helping me figure out what it would be like to teach English here, invited us to attend with her and helped us through it all since it's a totally foreign tradition. What an amazing few nights!

Friday night, Good Friday, is the night when Christ died. Around 8, people started filing into the church. When I walked in, I was struck not only with the amount of people of all shapes and sizes filling the chairs but also with the flowered casket of sorts that was sitting at the front of the sanctuary. Everyone who had entered was lined up in front of the casket where they proceeded to cross themselves and kiss the picture of Christ which was in the bed of flowers. Me and my friends followed Γωγώ through the line and then awkwardly kissed the fallen Christ.

At the time, that had no particular meaning to me. It was just weird. But as I watched people follow through the line for the next hour or so, it started to become really cool. People were mourning their fallen savior who died for them. He came to the Earth to show us a better way to live and we killed him. Now we're mourning and paying our respects. It was very cool.

From there, we sat and listened to the priests sing lamentations for the next hour or so. There are three songs they sing, I was told, and each one has a different meaning (and all in Ancient Byzantine Greek, so I had no hope of comprehending them). The only one I really remember was written from the perspective of the Virgin Mary mourning her son. It says something to the effect of, "Oh my son, you are my spring flower. You are the twinkle in my eye. Where have you gone to?" It's very beautiful.

After the singing had taken place, we all lit candles we got at the beginning of the service and followed the priests out of the church. They carried the flower casket and led the procession to the waterfront where we met the rest of the churches in Volos. Everyone in the whole town followed their fallen savior to the ocean where we heard more singing and a sermon from a priest. I understood a lot of this one. He said something to the effect of, "Christ has died. He was a teacher. He came here not to only make us happy, but to give us hope. He was a teacher who freed us from our sins and made it possible for us to be one with God once again. He died tonight for the whole world, for everyone. And tonight is a hopeful night, for though Christ has died, he will rise again and conquer death." I'm paraphrasing since I neither understood everything nor took notes.

From there, everyone followed their flowered caskets back to church. At the church, there was a little mini-drama. The church now represented the underworld and one of the priests, who carried a Bible, represented Jesus. The priest knocked on the door which another priest on the inside symbolizing Death opened. The Jesus priest uttered a few words and Death cowered before him as Christ proceeded in. We all followed him into the church, first crossing ourselves as we prayed and walked beneath the flowered casket. In the church there was a liturgy and we all headed home in hopes of the following evening.

Which leads me to last night (bear with me people).

Last night we all entered into the church around 11:30pm to the sound of the priests singing the lamentations again. We picked up another candle, this time they were all white, and waited. At around 11:55, everyone exited the church into the courtyard which was by this time totally packed. Someone exited the church with a lit candle and the light was passed around the courtyard while the priests stepped onto a platform in the center of the square. There was some liturgy which I didn't understand and at midnight, the priests declared triumphantly, "Χριστός Ανέστη! Χριστός Ανέστη!" (Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen!). It was amazing! People cheered, the church bells rang out, fireworks started going off, and an undeniable feeling of happiness passed through the crowd.

From there, lots of people left and went straight home to eat meat since lent is over. My friends and I went back into the church for the rest of the service. There was more singing, more liturgy, more ritual movements, but this time it seemed more hopeful. The priests were more active. They walked through the crowd carrying a crucifix, or incense, or candles. I left when communion began since I had neither prepared myself by fasting or converted to EO.

I went up to my fourth floor apartment to watch the rest. I could hear it too since the church has loud speakers that they blast from. I looked out to the mountain and saw a giant fireworks display. The whole thing was just unreal. The energy, the excitement, the ritual, the meaning. I loved it.

Today everyone is sitting outside roasting a pig on a spit and listening to traditional Greek music at full blast. I'm gonna go walk around and take pictures!

Christ has Risen!

1 comment:

Latesa said...

That sounds absolutely incredible! Wow.