Sunday, April 19, 2009


From Wednesday afternoon when I arrived in Volos until Saturday afternoon, I was in the church almost continually.

On Friday afternoon, the one excursion I made was with Kyria Poppy to see her church of St. Andrew's, which is located just outside the city in a rural area. She and her husband started the church in 1984, and she's the dynamo behind it. This woman really has almost boundless energy. Like many dedicated parishioners in Greece, she went with little or no sleep on Holy Thursday night, after the reading of the 12 Passion Gospels, in order to prepare the bier (epitaphion).

On Friday, during the day, it is the custom in Greece for one to visit the church and venerate the epitaphion. In bigger churches, one may have to wait in line for some time.

The top photos are of the epitaphion at Poppy's little church. The photo immediately above is of the outside of the church.

Holy Thursday morning and Holy Saturday morning in Greece are the times when nearly everyone in Greece wants to take Holy Communion. So after helping with the exhausting service on Saturday morning, I had a blessing to go back to Thessaloniki so that I could celebrate the Resurrection with Pelagia here in Panorama.

At 11:00 PM, we gathered at the church to await the arrival of the Holy Light directly from Jerusalem. The miraculous Holy Light from the Holy Sepulchre itself in Jerusalem comes to the Patriarch of Jerusalem around 2:00 PM on Saturday, and then is immediately flown to the Archbishop of Greece in Athens, who then in turn distributes it throughout Greece. The municipality of Panorama sends an official delegation to the airport to receive it on Saturday night, and it is then brought back, with police escort, to Panorama. There, the mayor of Panorama hands it to the clergy just outside the church. Everyone then processes into the church, where Orthros begins immediately.

Shortly before midnight, the priests hand out the Holy Light and everyone processes outside. (See Pelagia's photo below.) On a stand near the church, the Gospel is read, and then, at midnight, the priests joyfully announce "Christ is risen!" Everyone processes back into the church, where Orthros is concluded and Liturgy begins.

Last night, we concluded around 2:30 AM, and then, joyful and exhausted, we headed home to rest. Now we're about to head over to our neighbors for a big lunch! : )

Tonight at 7:00 we'll have Agape Vespers -- I'll read the Gospel in English. : )


Anonymous said...

Христос Васкрсе Father Gregory!

I was always impressed with the midnight Paschal Matins and Liturgy since it is not a widely accepted Serbian tradition (at least not in the States).

Then someone told me a few years back that all the Greeks come to that service but they only stay for the procession and the fireworks and then most of them go home so that midway through the service the church is almost empty.

Just curious - that wasn't the case in Greece was it?

Fr. Milovan

Fr. Gregory said...

Hello Father Milovan!

Unfortunately, there is some truth in what you were told.

Of course, it is to be remembered that I would say there is almost no one in Greece who doesn't go to church at all. I'd say 99% of the people believe. Unfortunately, though, for a certain segment of the population, their participation in liturgical life of the Church is limited to certain parts of Holy Week. Typically, these people will make an effort during Holy Week to fast, perhaps from meat, and they try to attend some of the services.

Almost everyone in Greece wants to commune on Holy Thursday morning and Holy Saturday morning. On Friday, they'll go into the church during the day and venerate the epitaphion, and perhaps they'll come for a bit of the procession with the epitaphion on Friday night. Then they'll come at 11:30 or so on Saturday night in order to hear "Christos Anesti" and take the Holy Light home. Unfortunately, they leave as soon as they get this so that they can go celebrate, and miss the Liturgy, because they communed on Thursday and/or Saturday morning.

Generally speaking, this is the "marry and bury" segment of the population -- people who wouldn't dream of not being baptized, married, and given a funeral in the Orthodox Church, but who otherwise have a very limited understanding of the Church.

But thank God that they participate as they can!