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Orthodox Christians to Celebrate Pascha

NEW YORK – More than 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide will celebrate Pascha (Easter) on Sunday, April 16, 2023. This year Orthodox Pascha is celebrated one week after the celebration of the Western Easter.

The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the Council of Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D. According to this decree, Easter must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox but always after the Hebrew Passover to maintain the Biblical sequence of events of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Orthodox Christian churches have adhered strictly to this formula.

Archbishop Elpidophoros will officiate at Holy Week services in Greek Orthodox parishes in the Metropolis of NJ and in New York metropolitan area including Holy Friday Lamentations services at St. Nicholas Shrine Church in Flushing which will begin at 6:30 p.m., Resurrection Services at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in NYC starting Saturday evening at 11:00 p.m. and Agape Vespers at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in Ground Zero on Pascha Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

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: Greek, Russian, Romanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Albanian, Serbian and Ukrainian, which serve some 7 million faithful in the Americas.

On PALM SUNDAY during the Divine Liturgy, palms are blessed and distributed to the faithful commemorating Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem.

On HOLY TUESDAY, the Service of the Bridegroom is conducted, and the beautiful Hymn of repentance composed by St. Kassiani is sung.

On HOLY WEDNESDAY, the faithful are anointed with the Sacrament of Holy Unction, blessed oil, which cleanses, renews and strengthens both spiritually and physically.

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 (special hymns referring to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and His burial) 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 lit white candle, chanting, “Come, Receive the Light, the Light of the Resurrection.” The light is passed to the congregation until the Church is ablaze with the glow of 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 joyously sung by the faithful. At the conclusion of the Resurrection Liturgy, red Easter eggs, which symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, are distributed to the congregation.

On EASTER SUNDAY, the Vespers of AGAPE (Love) are celebrated with the Holy Gospel of the Resurrection read in several languages emphasizing the universality of Christ’s teaching of love and peace.