Anastasi & Easter

Written by Marisa Hazakis

On the evening of Holy Saturday, we celebrate the miracle of the Holy Fire and Christ’s Resurrection at the midnight Anastasi Service. Traditionally, an Anastasi meal follows the service, where the faithful break their fast. On Easter Sunday or Pascha, families gather to enjoy the “Feats of Feasts”. 

Holy Fire from the church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Every year, thousands of Orthodox Christians travel to Jerusalem to witness the ceremony of the Holy Fire or Agios Fos, the most renowned miracle of Eastern Orthodoxy. According to church tradition, each year on the day before Orthodox Easter, a blue light glows from the stone bed Jesus was said to have been buried on, in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The flame is captured by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, who first enters the tomb with 33 flaming candles in each hand (representing the 33 years of Christ’s life on Earth). It is said that the Holy Light forms a column of fire from which candles can be lit and that the Holy Flame does not burn. More than 10 000 expectant pilgrims burst into cheers as the flame emerges. Bells chime and within minutes the Holy Light is spread amongst the crowd. The Fire is flown to Athens on a specially chartered flight and received by the Metochi of the Holy Sepulchre church in Plaka where candles are lit and then dispersed to churches throughout the region in time for the start of resurrection services. The Holy Fire also travels by air to other countries with large Orthodox Christian communities, in specialised containers designed to transport open flame in pressurised cabins, where it is traditionally welcomed with great ceremony by the faithful. To the hundreds of millions of Orthodox believers, the Holy Fire symbolises the resurrection of Jesus, and the appearance of the flame inside his tomb is an annual miracle whose arrival is anticipated and celebrated.

Miracle of the Holy Fire. Source: Newsweek

You can watch the ceremony of the Miracle of the Holy Fire here

Anastasi Service (observed at midnight on Holy Saturday)

Anastasi Service. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Before midnight, a huge congregation arrives at church for the climax of the Orthodox year, the Anastasi service. In preparation for Anastasi, it is customary for people to buy a new outfit, symbolic of new life after the Resurrection. Some godparents buy new clothing for their godchild, as well as a decorated candle (Lambada) for Anastasi. A few minutes before midnight, the church lights are turned off and the Orthros of the Resurrection begins in complete darkness, symbolic of Christ’s tomb. When the clock strikes twelve, the priest takes light from the holy altar and joyfully proclaims, “Come receive the light from the unwaning light, and glorify Christ who rose from the dead.” The Holy Light is given to the congregation and parishioners pass it along to each other; in moments, the church is aglow with the light of Christ. Every Christian holding a candle does so as a symbol of their vivid and deep faith in the Resurrection of Christ. The faithful wait in anticipation for the priest to start the hymn of Resurrection and then join in triumphantly. From this moment the service takes on a joyous Easter atmosphere with the entire congregation singing, “Christos Anesti” in unison. As everyone leave the church, they greet each other with, “Christos Anesti” (Christ has Risen) and respond with “Alithos Anesti” (Truly He has risen) or “Alithos o Kirios” (Truly the Lord) and exchange the kiss of Resurrection. This is a time of forgiveness, peace and joy.

Listen to the hymn of Resurrection, Christos Anesti, here.

Christos Anesti lyrics and meaning

Anastasi Meal

Even though it is past midnight, a traditional Anastasi (Resurrection) meal follows the service. Instead of a prayer, Christos Anesti is sung three times in honour of the Trinity. Red eggs, symbolic of the Resurrection, are cracked large and to large end and small end to small end with competitors saying “Christos Anesti” and “Alithos Anesti.” The red colour symbolises the blood of Christ shed on the cross, the egg symbolises new life and the cracking of the shell symbolises the sealed tomb from which Jesus rose. Through the process of elimination, a “champion” unbroken egg is left. The winner is said to have good luck all year. Traditionally, mayeritsa, a Easter soup made with lamb offal is served. It is considered a gentle way to introduce meat back into the diet, while also using the leftover parts of the lamb to be served at lunch the following, ensuring nothing is wasted. Nowadays, many families substitute the meat for chicken or other parts of the lamb.

You can find a recipe for mayeritsa here

Anastasi Meal. Source: Sirens & Scoundrels

Pascha/ Easter Sunday 

A day of love, happiness and delicious food, Easter finally arrives after the arduous journey through the Triodion (the period of Lent and Holy Week)! The Great Vespers of Agape (God’s love) takes place on Easter Sunday, encouraging love, forgiveness and reconciliation. Often called the Feast of Feasts, the church considers Pascha to be the most important feast day of the year. Families gather and enjoy a decadent spread of Greek delicacies. Traditionally, a lamb on the spit is served. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, making Him the “Lamb of God,” so eating lamb honours this.

Lamb on the spit. Source: Medium

Christos Anesti & Kalo Pascha!

 

Sources

  • “Great and Holy Pascha.” Greek Orthodox Diocese of Americawww.goarch.org/pascha. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.
  • “Holy Week.” OrthodoxWikihttps://orthodoxwiki.org/Holy_Week. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.
  • Rouvelas, Marilyn, and George Papaioannou. A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America. Nea Attiki Press, 2002.
  • “How a Sacred Flame Spreads across the World despite the Pandemic.” National Geographic, 19 Apr. 2020, www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/04/how-sacred-flame-spreads-across-the-world-despite-coronavirus-pandemic/.
  • “Holy Fire.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Nov. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Fire.‌
  • “The Game of Cracking the Greek Easter Eggs | Tsougrisma.” Greece by a Greek, 1 Apr. 2015, greecebyagreek.com/2015/04/01/the-game-of-cracking-the-greek-easter-eggs/.
  • “Holy Fire Ceremony To Mark Orthodox Easter Held In Near-Empty Jerusalem Church.” NPR, www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/18/837883795/holy-fire-ceremony-to-mark-orthodox-easter-held-in-near-empty-jerusalem-church. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.
  • “The Holy Fire and the Roots of the Celebration of Pascha.” Greek Boston, 21 May 2009, www.greekboston.com/culture/modern-history/holy-fire-pascha/.
  • “Greek Orthodox Easter Religious Service Overview.” Greek Boston, 14 Mar. 2004, www.greekboston.com/religion/pascha-service/.
  • “Things to Know About Greek Orthodox Easter If You’re Not Greek.” Greek Boston, 2 Apr. 2010, www.greekboston.com/culture/modern-history/orthodox-easter/.

Holy Saturday

Written by Marisa Hazakis

On Holy Saturday, the church commemorates the burial of Christ and His descent into Hades.

The day in between His Crucifixion and Resurrection, Holy Saturday is also called the Great Sabbath, since it is the day that Christ “rested” in His tomb. The Matins service of Holy Saturday is observed in the evening of Good Friday and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil takes place the following morning.

The Matins of Lamentation (observed on the evening of Good Friday)

The sombre evening service on Good Friday takes the form of a funeral service for Christ, with the Epitaphios in the centre of the church, symbolising Christ’s burial in the tomb. Mirofores (young girls dressed in white) stand at the Epitaphios symbolising the women with myrrh who came to the tomb of Christ early in the morning to find it empty. During the service, the congregation joins the choir in grieving the death of Christ, by singing one of the most famous Orthodox hymns, the Lamentations. The Lamentations are presented in three stanzas and at the third stanza when the verse “early in the morning the myrrh-bearers came to Thee and sprinkled myrrh upon Thy tomb” is sung, the priest sprinkles the Epitaphios and the congregation with rosewater.

Mirofores standing by the Epitaphios. Source: riverdalepress.com

You can listen to the Lamentations here.

After the Doxology, while chanting the Trisagion, the Epitaphios is carried in procession around the church while the faithful follow with lit candles. After the procession, candles are extinguished to symbolise Christ’s death and parishioners file underneath the Epitaphios, raised at the entrance of the church, to receive God’s blessing. At the end of the service, the faithful venerate the Epitaphio and receive a holy flower and wish each other, “Kali Anastasi

Procession of the Epitaphios. Source: greeknewsagenda.gr

Watch the procession of the Epitaphios here

The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great (observed on Saturday morning)

The Divine Liturgy of the following morning, sometimes called the First Resurrection Service, commemorates Jesus’ descent into Hades, where He preached His messaged to the dead. Those who believed Him were raised into Paradise and received eternal life and salvation. The heavy sorrow of Good Friday begins to lift when the priest, wearing a bright robe, chants, “Arise, O God, to the world,” while sprinkling bay leaves and flower petals all over the church, symbolising the shattered gates and broken chains of hell, to celebrate the triumph over death.

Priest scattering rose petals. Source: ancientfaithministries.com

Kali Anastasi!

 

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Good Friday

Written by Marisa Hazakis

Good Friday, the most solemn day of the year, commemorates the death of Christ on the Cross. The services of Good Friday actually begin on Thursday evening with the reading of the twelve gospels, which recount the events of the Passion of Christ. The following morning, we observe the Reading of the Royal Hours leading up to the Vesper service of Friday afternoon, which commemorates Christ’s descent from the cross. 

Remember the church day begins the evening before the calendar day, so the service of the twelve Gospels on Thursday evening recalls the events that happened on Friday morning and so on. 

The Crucifixion (observed on the evening of Holy Thursday)

The commemorations of Holy Friday begin with the Matins service on Thursday evening. This service is unique because twelve Gospels are delivered describing all the events of His Crucifixion: Christ’s farewell at the Passover meal, the betrayal, arrest, trial, Crucifixion, death and sealing of the tomb. Some parishioners practice the custom of knotting a ribbon after each Gospel and using it later as a filakto (a religious charm used for protection). After the fifth Gospel, the cross is taken out of the altar area and carried around the church in procession while the priest chants the Fifteenth Antiphon:

“Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection.”

During the procession, the faithful kneel and venerate the Cross and pray for their spiritual well-being, imitating the thief on the Cross who confessed his faith and devotion to Christ. At the end of the procession, the Crucifix is placed in the centre of the church and at the end of the service, parishioners come forward, make the sign of the cross and kiss the body or feet of Christ as He hangs on the cross.

You can listen to the chanting of the Fifteenth Antiphon here.

Icon of the Crucifixion of Christ. Source: uncutmountainsupply.com

In the Icon of the Crucifixion of Christ (pictured above), Jesus is shown nailed to the Cross. His right side is pierced and blood and water flow from the wound. At the foot of the Cross is a skull because the site of His Crucifixion, Golgotha means “the place of the skull”. The top bar of the Cross is inscribed with the initials  “I.N.B.I.”, the initials for the Greek words meaning “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Pictured to the left of Christ, is Jesus’ mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Mary Magdalene and to the right, the youthful St. John the Apostle.

Descent from the Cross (observed on the afternoon of Good Friday)

Good Friday is a time of mourning and strict fasting. It is the only day of the entire year that no Divine Liturgy may take place. Friday morning begins with the service of the Royal Hours, during which prophecies from the Old Testament and church hymns about the Passion and death of Christ are read. Apokathilosis, the Vespers service in the afternoon of Good Friday, commemorates Christ’s unnailing from the Cross. The faithful solemnly watch as the priest removes the body of Christ from the Cross and wraps Him in a white sheet. The priest reenacts the steps taken by Joseph of Arimathea, who took Christ’s body to the tomb. He does this by carrying the epitaphios (an icon of Christ’s burial embroidered on a cloth) around the church and then placing it in the kouvouklion (a carved wooden funeral bier decorated with flowers). Parishioners venerate the icon at the end of the service with the sign of a cross and a kiss, sometimes crawling underneath the epitaphios it in the shape of a cross to show humility and receive God’s blessing. This service begins in a solemn manner, but by the end of the service we are already anticipating the Resurrection of Christ.  The evening Orthos of Good Friday commemorates the events of Holy Saturday, the day Christ’s soul descended into Hades to free the faithful of the Old Covenant, while His body rested in the tomb.

Kouvouklion at SAHETI School, Johannesburg (2018).

On Thursday or early Friday morning, the women of the each parish decorate the kouvouklion traditionally with white, red and purple flowers. They represent the women who prepared Christ’s body for the tomb. People popularly refer to the kouvouklion and epitaphios collectively as “the epitaphios“, however they represent the tomb and the body of Christ respectively. The epitaphios remains at the front of the church for the entire afternoon and into the evening service of Good Friday. Parishioners come to the church and pay their respects to the buried Christ with the same regard as they would a deceased family member.

The epitaphios. Source: goarch.org

In Greece, Good Friday is a national holiday, with no school or work. Flags are flown at half-mast and the tolling of church bells is heard throughout the day. In other parts of the world, the faithful take time off to emphasise the importance of the day, attend church services and pay respects to the deceased. Many people also visit the different churches in their area in order to view and venerate the epitaphia. 

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Holy Wednesday: Sacrament of the Holy Unction

Written by Marisa Hazakis

On the afternoon or evening of Holy Wednesday, the church offers the Sacrament of the Holy Unction for the healing of the body and soul and for forgiveness of sins.

The Sacrament of the Holy Unction is the church’s specific prayer for healing of body, mind and spirit. Although it can be performed at anytime during the year, the service is offered during Holy Week because of the need for forgiveness and spiritual healing in preparation for Anastasi (Resurrection). The tradition of receiving Unction on Holy Wednesday commemorates the anointing of Christ with myrrh by a sinful woman. Her sins were forgiven because of her penitence and the faithful are urged to do the same.

The biblical basis for the Sacrament is found in James 5: 13-15 which reads:

Is any one of you suffering? Let him pray. Is any one in good spirits? Let him sing a hymn. Is any one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters (leader or senior) of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sin, they shall be forgiven him.

The Sacrament itself calls for seven priests, seven readings from the Epistles and Gospels, seven prayers (listed below) and seven anointings with oil specifically blessed during the service. Each of the seven prayers asks for the remission of our sins and for the healing of our souls and bodies:

  1. James 5:10-17, Luke 10:25-37
  2. Romans 15: 1- 7, Luke 19: 1-10
  3. I Corinthians 12:27-31; 13:1-8, Matthew 10:1,5-8
  4. II Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1, Matthew 8:14-23
  5. II Corinthians 1:8-11, Matthew 25-1-13
  6. Galatians 5:22-6:2, Matthew 15:21-28
  7.  I Thessalonians 5:14-23, Matthew 9:9-13

Sacrament of the Holy Unction. Source: AnotherCity.org

The faithful should prepare for this service in a prayerful way as they do for Holy Communion and because of the repentant nature of the service, are encouraged to attend confession beforehand. At the end of the service the priest anoints the faithful with a cotton swab dipped in oil. He makes the sign of the cross on the forehead, cheeks, chin and front and back of the hands of each parishioner saying, “For the healing of soul and body.”

The Sacrament of the Holy Unction reminds us that when we are in pain, either physical, emotional or spiritual, Christ is present with us through the ministry of His Church. He is among us to offer strength to meet the challenges of life and even the approach of death.

You can watch a service for the Sacrament of the Holy Unction in English here and in Greek here.

Sources

  • Rouvelas, Marilyn, and George Papaioannou. A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America. Nea Attiki Press, 2002.
  • “Greek Orthodox Holy Wednesday (Holy Unction) Religious Service Overview.” Greek Boston, 11 Mar. 2004, www.greekboston.com/religion/holy-wednesday-unction/.
  • ‌“Holy Week: An Explanation.” Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdioceseww1.antiochian.org/1175027131. Accessed 14 Apr. 2020.
  • “Holy Unction.” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, www.goarch.org/holyunction. Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.
  • “Anointing of the Sick.” Wikipedia, 26 Mar. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anointing_of_the_sick#Eastern_Orthodox_Church.‌

Services of the Bridegroom

Written by Marisa Hazakis

Beginning on the evening of Palm Sunday until the evening of Holy Tuesday, the church observes the Services of Christ the Bridegroom, which recount and commemorate Jesus’ last earthly days.

It is important to note that the church day always begins the evening before the secular day so, most of the services during Holy Week are rotated twelve hours ahead. With this being said, the services for Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are sung in the evening of Palm Sunday, Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday respectively.

The Services of the Bridegroom constitute a single liturgical unit, which all have the common theme of Christ’s last teachings to his disciples and foreshadow his death and resurrection. They are based on a series of parables and incidents that happened in Jerusalem which anticipated the Passion of Christ.

Holy Monday (sung on the evening of Palm Sunday)

The name of the services comes from the Parable of the Ten Virgins, in which Christ the Bridegroom is the central figure. The service on Sunday evening, celebrates Christ as the Bridegroom and the church and its people as His bride. In the same way that a bride must be ready to meet her bridegroom, the people must prepare (through Holy Week) for eternal union with Christ. During this service, the priest carries an icon of Christ the Bridegroom into the church. The Bridegroom troparion (“Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night…”) is sung during this procession, and the icon is brought to the front of the church and remains there until Holy Thursday. The icon depicts Christ as He was dressed by the Roman guards prior to His crucifixion, “bearing the marks of His suffering, yet preparing a marriage Feast for us in God’s.” The crown is a symbol of His marriage to the church; the rope represents bondage to sin, death and corruption, which was loosened with His crucifixion; and the reed is a symbol of His humility.

Icon of Christ the Bridegroom. Source: anothercity.org

Joseph the Patriarch

On Holy Monday we commemorate Joseph, the son of Jacob. A prominent figure in the Old Testament, Joseph is often seen as a tipos Christou (a prototype of Christ) because of his exceptional qualities and remarkable life. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by them. Similarly, Jesus was betrayed by His own and sold into the slavery of death. Joseph forgave and spared his brothers during the famine when they came to him, just as Christ offers himself as a sacrifice and forgives all those who come to him in faith.

The Barren Fig Tree 

The Gospel reading for Holy Monday is that of the Barren Fig Tree, which Jesus curses for not bearing fruit. The fig tree represents those who have heard God’s word, but who fail to bear the fruits of faith and obedience and put His word into action. This parable is a reminder that on the Last Day, Christ’s judgment of the faithless, unbelieving, unrepentant and unloving will be certain and decisive.

Holy Tuesday (sung on the evening of Holy Monday)

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

The theme of Christ as the bridegroom is repeated again on Holy Tuesday in the parable of the Ten Virgins. It tells the story of virgins who are preparing to meet Christ by filling their lamps with the oil of charity and love, but only five of them are ready and the rest allow their lamps to go out and were shut out of the marriage feast. The lesson of this parable is that the faithful must always be prepared to receive the Lord when he comes again or risk being shut out of the marriage feast (the kingdom) on Judgement Day.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins. Source: A Reader’s Guide to Orthodox Icons

Holy Wednesday (sung on the evening of Holy Tuesday)

The theme of Holy Wednesday is repentance and forgiveness. This service commemorates the sinful woman who anointed Christ with myrrh. While visiting the home of a Pharisee, Christ was approached by a woman weeping at His feet. Despite the Pharisees dismissal of her unworthiness to touch christ, Jesus forgave her for her sins. She is presented as an example of how to repent for one’s sins and be saved. The Hymn of Kassiane is sung during this service to honour this woman and remind the faithful to repent and be forgiven before it is too late. Written by Kassia the Melodos, one of only four Orthodox women hymn writers, the Hymn of Kassiane is one of the most beloved and beautiful hymns in the Byzantine repertoire.

Listen to the Hymn of Kassiane here

Sources

Palm Sunday

Written by Marisa Hazakis

Palm Sunday is the celebration of the entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem after he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Read on to find out more about the Palm Sunday service and other traditions.

The Sunday before Pascha (Easter Sunday) and at the beginning of Holy week, the Orthodox church celebrates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Having heard of His miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was triumphantly welcomed into the city by adoring crowds waving palm branches.

Biblical Story

The biblical story of Palm Sunday is recorded in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; and John 12:12-18).

Five days before the Passover, Jesus travelled from Bethany to Jerusalem. As they neared Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of His disciples to the nearby village of Bethphage to fetch a donkey and her colt that were tied there. The disciples fulfilled His requests, thus fulfilling the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9 which states, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Behold, your King is coming to you; Lowly and riding on a donkey, and a colt, the foal of a donkey.” So, Jesus entered the city not in a royal chariot drawn by horses, but humbly on a young colt covered with the well-worn robes of His disciples.

Having heard of His great works and teachings as well as His miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection, people gathered in Jerusalem to welcome Him. Christ entered the city accompanied by throngs of people who followed Him from Bethany or had met Him on the way. Enthusiastic crowds went out to meet him waving palm branches, laying their clothes on the ground before Him and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”

At the beginning of His public life, Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God. He called for an inward change of mind and heart, which would result in concrete changes in one’s life and to follow Him and accept His messianic destiny. Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem was a messianic event, through which His divine authority was declared. Palm Sunday summons the faithful to lift their voices and praise God, “behold our King, the Word of God made flesh.”

Icon of the Feast of Palm Sunday. Source: goarch.org

Celebration of Palm Sunday

The church celebrates this highlight in Christ’s public life with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. Additionally, a procession through the church reenacts Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, with the blessing and distribution of Palm Crosses and bay leaves at the end of the service. Palm Crosses are taken home placed behind icons until the following year. Many believe that the bay leaves blessed on Palm Sunday and later be burnt can restore health to those who have fallen sick.

Learn how to fold your own Palm Crosses at home here.

Palm Crosses. Source: goarch.org

Although Palm Sunday falls within Sarakosti (40 days of Lent), fasting is modified because of the triumphant nature of the Feast. The church allows the faithful to consume fish, oil and wine. Bakaliaros (cod), skorthalia (garlic dip) and fried vegetables are traditional, however any fish dish may be served.

Find the recipe for skorthalia here.

Traditional Palm Sunday meal. Source: GrecianPurveyor.com

 

 

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Saturday of Lazarus

Written by Marisa Hazakis

 

Saturday of Lazarus celebrates the miracle of Jesus Christ when he raised Lazarus from the dead. Here’s what you need to know:

The Saturday before Holy Week begins, the Orthodox church celebrates the miracle of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, after he had lain in the grave for four days. The feast occurs at the end of the 40 days of lent and is combined with the celebration of Palm Sunday.

Biblical Story of Lazarus (Gospel of John 11:1-45)

Lazarus lived in Bethany with his sisters Mary and Martha. When he fell ill, his sisters sent a message to Jesus stating, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” To which He replied, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (vv. 1-4). Jesus waited two days before he travelled to Bethany. He told His disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep and He was going to wake Him. His disciples expressed concern, since Bethany was close to Jerusalem and the Jews there had recently tried to stone Him. Reassuringly Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them” (vv. 5-10).

When He arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Many Jews had come to console Martha and Mary, so when Martha heard that Jesus was approaching she went to meet Him and told Him that if He had been there, her brother would not have died. Jesus told her that her brother would rise again. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (vv. 17-27). Martha was sent to fetch Mary to meet Jesus.

Mary was in tears when she arrived, as were those who were consoling her. Jesus was moved by the weeping mourners and asked to be taken to the tomb of Lazarus. At the tomb, Jesus also wept for Lazarus and asked for the stone that covered the door be taken away. Jesus looked toward heaven and said “Father, I thank you for having heard me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me” (vv. 38-44). When He said this, he commanded Lazarus to come out and Lazarus walked out of the tomb.

Many Jews who were present to witness this miracle, believed in Jesus. Others went and told the Pharisees what Jesus had done, who, along with chief priests, later considered how they might arrest Him and put Him to death. This miracle is a reassurance to Jesus’ disciples that though He suffers and dies, He is Lord and Victor over death. Sometimes called “first Easter”, the resurrection of Lazarus foreshadows Christ’s own resurrection eight days later.

Icon of the Feast

 

The Icon of the Saturday of Lazarus

The Icon of the Saturday of Lazarus. Source: Pinterest.

The icon of the Saturday of Lazarus shows Christ calling Lazarus, who is still bound by strips of burial cloth, to come out of the tomb. Mary and Martha are shown to be bowing before Christ expressing both their sorrow for the death of their brother and their faith in Christ as the Messiah. Standing with Christ are His disciples and witnesses to the miracle, that would later bring them assurance during the Passion of our Lord. A crowd of witnesses are depicted in the centre, some of whom believed, while others told the Pharisees what had happened. In the background we see the walls of Jerusalem, where Christ will be welcomed the following day.

Lazarakia (Little Lazarus Buns)

One common tradition throughout Greece, to celebrate the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, is the baking of Lazarakia. These are small, sweet and spiced bread, made only once a year. They are shaped like a man wrapped in burial clothes, just as Lazarus was, with cloves for eyes. They are also Nistisima (Lenten), so they do not contain and dairy or egg products, instead olive oil is used to achieve a glossy effect.

Find the recipe here.

Lazarakia. Source: AkisPetrezikis.com

Church of Saint Lazarus, Larnaca

Saturday of Lazarus is particularly significant in Cyprus. After Christ raised him from the dead, Lazarus received threats on his life, so he was forced to flee to Cyprus. In 45 AD, Apostles Paul and Barnabas came to Cyprus and consecrated him as the first bishop of Kition (modern-day Larnaca). Around 63 AD, he died for the second time and was buried at the Church of Saint Lazarus in Larnaca, where his relics remain to this day. On this day, young boys in Cyprus go from house to house singing songs about Lazarus’ resurrection. They are rewarded with uncooked eggs that are boiled and dyed on Holy Thursday in preparation for Anastasi (Resurrection).

The Church of Saint Lazarus, Larnaca, Cyprus. Source: Sumfinity.com

 

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Xristos Anesti & Happy Easter

Xristos Anesti (Happy Easter) from the NAHYSOSA team and all our affiliates around South Africa. We wish you all a blessed day and a wonderful time with your family and friends!

A quote we thought was relevant today from our all time favourite movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding: ‘What do you mean he don’t no meat? It’s okay, we make lamb’ – Aunt Voula.

Infographic designed by Eugenia Papathanassiu

Holy Thursday: Meaning of the Red Eggs

Ever wondered why at all Greek Easter tables, there are red eggs placed beautifully in mom’s favourite dish?

If you don’t know why or what the symbolism is, check our image below!

According to greek Orthodox tradition, eggs are to be dyed on Holy Thursday in commemoration of the Last Supper, the final meal which Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion.

Fun fact of the day: There is a game played with the red eggs on Easter Sunday. The game is called ‘tsougrisma’ and involves two players and two eggs. Each player holds a red egg, and one taps the end his/her egg lightly against the end of the other player’s egg. The goal is to crack the opponents egg.

The player who successfully cracks the eggs of the other players is declared the winner and is believed to have good luck for the rest of the year!

We wish you a blessed Holy Thursday!

Infographic compiled and designed by Sotiris Stergiou

Easter Koulourakia

We all love Holy Week Traditions! A week where families get together, be it at church or in the kitchen to prepare for the Easter Sunday lunch.

Check out the recipe below for those of you who will be spending the next few days baking delicious koulourakia! They definitely one of our favourite treats.

If you give our recipe a try, let us know in the comments below what you think and how they turned out!

Recipe is courtesy of Stamie Koutouzis. Sourced from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/irenes-sweet-koulourakia-recipe2

Inforgraphic compiled and designed by Eugenia Papathanassiu