Monday, April 28, 2008
Pascha in Volos
On Holy Saturday morning, we celebrated the Vesperal Liturgy of St Basil -- or what the Greeks call "the First Resurrection." It was really remarkable to us that the Greeks take every possible chance to look forward to that glorious moment at midnight when we proclaim "Christ is risen!" Anyway, the church was packed and communion took quite a long time.
After the service, as we waited for the service to begin at 11 PM, Pelagia and I took a drive up the mountain which overshadows Volos. Near the top there is a picturesque little town called Makrinitsa. All the photos are from there, looking down on Volos and the sea. In the third photo, you see a man bringing in a lamb, ready to be roasted for the big feast on Sunday afternoon.
Finally, the hour came. The parish was packed like you wouldn't believe. The whole area surrounding the church was packed. Shortly before midnight, we had to fight our way outside to the little platform erected for reading the Gospel and announcing "Christ is risen!"
Of course, it was a pretty wild affair. Some yahoos couldn't wait any longer and at 10-15 minutes before midnight started setting off their fireworks nearby.
After midnight, we went back into the church for the Liturgy. As is typical in Greece, about half of the crowd disappeared right after midnight, so the church was much more manageable for the Liturgy. (It seems to me that in the average Greek mind, this Liturgy is not an integral part of the Pascha celebration. Most people commune on Thursday and Saturday mornings, and are then ready to break the fast at 12:01.)
The Liturgy, which is usually performed quickly in Greece, ended about 1:30. We then met up with the dean of the metropolis and went to Metropolitan Ignatios' house to break the fast. It was really pleasant -- it was just the bishop, his dean, his protodeacon, the woman who helps him around the house -- and us! We felt very honored to be included.
On Sunday we headed back to Thessaloniki. In the afternoon, we met up with our friends Justin and Kalliopi (whose wedding we attended here back in January) and had a typical Greek feast (complete with roasted lamb!) with their family and friends.
Today, Monday, was the feast of St George, who is the patron of our parish here in Panorama. The Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, Anthimos, came to celebrate, along with 2 other deacons and about 10 priests. The Liturgy was broadcast on TV -- the Church has its own TV station, which actually many people watch. In fact, a friend of mine wrote me later in the day to say that she had seen me serving on TV!
I talked with the Metropolitan for a few minutes after the service, and Fr. Alexios (the rector of the parish) told him how Pelagia and I were from America; we were converts; her family was part of a large group of Protestants who converted (i.e. the EOC movement). Like many Greeks, he seemed really fascinated and thrilled by this.
It was interesting for me to note a couple things about the bishop's arrival: first, the actual license plate of his car is a totally different plate, and it reads in big letters "M. Th." (i.e. Metropolitan of Thessaloniki). I can't IMAGINE any Greek cop pulling him over with a plate like that! Second, speaking of cops, Fr. Alexios somehow got some cops from our station in Panorama to go meet the bishop's car somewhere along the way and give him a police escort to the church. All the clergy waited outside for his arrival, and as soon as his car was spotted in the distance, the bells were rung.
Anyway, tomorrow is the feast of Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene -- a major celebration in Greece. It never ends! ( :
Posted by Fr. Gregory at 2:37 PM