The high point of the Church year, is of course, Easter (click here for this year’s bulletin).
After the Great Forty Day Fast, in the Eastern Christian Church we enter the solemn days of Holy Week. However, although the fullest expression of the Resurrection of Christ waits until Sunday morning, Saturday already gives us a foretaste of the that great day.
On Saturday afternoon we celebrate Vespers with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great in the presence of the tomb of Christ (Plashchanytsja). However, for the second half of the service the priest changes his vestments from the sobre red to the celebratory white (photo 1). During this service we remember that prior to the appearance of the Risen Lord on Easter morning, He descended into Hades and freed the righteous from bondage (photo 2). It is for this reason that in larger communities it is allowed to bless the Easter baskets on Saturday (photos 3-6).
However, Easter celebrations in their fullness begin early on Easter Sunday morning (photo 7). The darkness of Holy Week is broken when the priest leads the procession out of the Church, sharing the light of the Easter candle (photo 8-12) and remembering the Myrrh-bearing women who ran to Christ’s tomb in the early morning. During the procession the community proclaims in song the Resurrection and the Church bells toll in celebration (photo 14). After encircling the Church three times (in recognition of the third day Resurrection) everyone returns to Church singing: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs He granted life!” The service continues with much singing and celebration (Photos 15-20).
After the service, baskets are blessed on the Church grounds and the children have the opportunity for some play! (Photos 21-27). The first Sunday after Easter is called Ante-Pascha or the Sunday of St. Thomas and after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy the community gathers for a community Easter breakfast and the children engage in Easter games called Hajivky. (Phone 28-37)