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by Gary Van Haas

The solemnity of Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church ends with the commencement of Easter celebrations, where it glorifies the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Greek religion, every Sunday is dedicated to the Resurrection of the Lord, but one hundred days also are dedicated to Easter, 50 before its actual preparation, and another 50 after it in commemorating the glorification of the Lord. Easter is therefore considered, the "Feast of Feasts".

The 50 days before Easter, known as a part of the period of 'Triodion', are the period for strengthening faith in the Lord. This is a period of repentance, which changes people from indifference to full devotion and prayer, which is considered the soul of faith, which governs relationships with fellowman. With this special preparation, Greeks enter the sanctuary of Holy Week, not as spectators, but as actual participants in the commemoration and enactment of events leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ.

In Greek Orthodoxy, people believe Christians must always be well-trained to fight against those who try to corrupt God's spirit. The Christian must keep his own spiritual kingdom intact and his freedom of religion and uprightness vivid in order to be a part of the Kingdom of God, where the compassion's of the Lord and Resurrection will be experienced. In this belief, there is no other place where the Kingdom of God can be expanded except the heart of man; and there is no other gate whereby we can enter the Kingdom but that of repentance.

The 50 days which follow Easter are signified by the Pentecostarion, which are dedicated to the spiritual enjoyment of the participants in the deep belief that God is with all men in everyday life and thoughts. It starts with the celebration of the Jesus' Resurrection. During this period, the Church of Christ (Christ's mystical body) was instituted and strengthened. His disciples and Apostles miraculously witnessed the appearance of the risen Christ, and from that became recipients of the Holy Spirit. From this momentous event, the Apostles became the ambassadors of the new message of salvation in the name of Christ, 'the Savior'. Nowadays, Christians are also called to commemorate the same divine events and to enact them in their hearts and minds in realization that 'Christ is Risen'. This is also one of the reasons why the Church from the very beginning set forth as the center of its worship, the faith and Resurrection of Christ . From the earliest days after Pentecost, the Apostles designated the first of the Sabbath of each week for the remembrance of the Resurrection of Christ.

Holy Week itself, begins after 'Palm Sunday' and runs from Monday, where fasting and observance lead up to the so-called, 'Passion'. The Tuesday following it is usually devoted to scripture reading and Wednesday is devoted to the anointing the faithful with holy oil or a spig of oregano. These sprigs are later thought to have healing powers. Thursdays usually finds the household up and about very early decorating the churches as priests read bible passages from the Last Supper. Later, the taking of communion begins in which all the faithful participate. In the evening services, the priest recites passages from the twelve gospels, describing the Passion of Christ. On Good Friday, most shops and businesses are closed and flags are flown at half-mast in commemoration of Christ being taken down from the cross. On Friday evening, the bier of Christ is decorated with gold cloth and fresh flowers, where the faithful bow and stoop to kiss the symbolic body of Christ. After this, the bier is carried out of the church and paraded through the streets in a lengthy funeral procession. Finally on Holy Saturday, the ceremonies come to a close as people begin to break their fasts, savoring specially prepared dishes like 'margeiritsa' soup, made of lambs innards. The rest of the day is spent preparing for next day's big lamb feast at the Easter Sunday celebrations.

Useful Links:

Looking for Greek Easter Recipes? Visit http://www.greekcuisine.com

Looking for Greek Easter gifts and food items? Visit GreekShops.com

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