Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Joy of Resurrection in a Traditional Ukrainian Easter service -- Khrystos Voskres!

Copy of a Ukrainian Easter postcard circa 1930.

By Aussiegirl

Khrystos Voskres! Voistyno Voskres! Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!

On Satuday night, Orthodox Christians will joyfully greet one another with these words at the conclusion of the Easter vigil service, accompanied by happy embraces and the traditional three kisses on the cheeks. If one has never attended an Orthodox Easter night vigil one has truly missed one of Christianity's most colorful and explosively joyous celebrations of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.

At midnight, after the service, which features a church in darkness and dark vestments save for candles, the congregation led by the priest circle the church three times singing a special hymn and carrying candles.

On their return they find that the doors have been closed and the choir and the priest anitphonally sing the words Khrystos Voskres! And the congregation responds as one: "Voistyno Voskres!" (Truly, he has

The doors are flung open and the church is seen to have been "miraculously" transformed. It is arrayed in colorful vestments and flowers, the lights are
blazing and the celebration of Christ's glorious rise from the tomb is marked witha liturgy containing much joyous choral singing, incense and prayers.

Following the service, baskets of special Easter foods are blessed to be taken home and eaten to break the Great Fast which is maintained leading up to Easter. No Easter bunnies and Peeps for Orthodox!

Quoting from the website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada comes the following information which sheds some light on the differences between the Eastern tradition and the Western tradition when it comes to Easter.

In brief, in Orthodoxy our emphasis is on the miracle and joy in Christ's Resurrection and not on his suffering. And it is this joy that is always present in an Orthodox Easter celebration and makes it the high point in the Christian church calendar.

In my childhood Easter was always associated with a tremendous sense of anticipation, much as Christmas is in the West. Christmas is not as big
a deal in Orthodoxy, as all our emphasis is on the miracle of Resurrection, without which there is no point to Christianity.

The preparing of special foods, the baking of the paska, the tall yeasty Easter bread, the coloring of eggs, the filling and decorating of the
Easter basket with embroidered cloths, various fragrant foods, willow branches and a candle -- all these preparations heighten the excitement of waiting for the magical midnight service where we relive the miracle of the Resurrection and celebrate its liberation of mankind from the bondage of death.

From the Website of the OCA: Having Suffered for us Thy Passion: Holy Week and the Holy Fire

Holy Week in the Eastern tradition is distinguished from that in the West not only in terms of liturgical practices, but also, more importantly, by the difference in devotional emphasis during the week in which we re-live the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Holy Week in the Eastern Church is separate from the Great Fast, unlike in the West. For us, the Great Fast ends on the evening of the Friday before Lazarus' Saturday which precedes Palm Sunday.

But Holy Week in the West, especially in some Roman Catholic cultures, seems to be heavily focused on the suffering of Christ.

The climax here appears to be Good Friday and the way of the Cross, followed by Easter Sunday that seems not to have the same sense of liturgical solemnity.

[...]In contrast, the East always places the Cross and the Tomb next to the Resurrection.

The Resurrection is itself frequently mentioned in the services during Holy Week. For our liturgy, there is no doubt that Christ will rise from the dead, no melancholy or despair to be found.

The Passion of Christ is viewed liturgically as a terrible experience that Christ underwent for our salvation. But there is no dwelling on it, but on the Resurrection!

This is why the Eastern Crucifix is so different in character from that typically to be found in the West.

The East usually draws in the figure of Christ on the Cross. There is no artistic attempt made to show Christ in agony as in the West. One popular Eastern Crucifix is that of "San Damiano" that was honoured by St Francis during his lifetime.

This Crucifix presents a large figure of Christ on the Cross. Everything about the Icon indicates that it is Christ, the Word made Flesh, Who is in control of the situation, Who voluntarily undertakes this suffering.

And above the Head of Christ there is an Icon-Medallion with the Resurrected Christ for, as St. John announces, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God!"

[...]Pascha is a three-day event. The Cross, the Tomb and the Resurrection are one continuous liturgical movement or "Triduum Pascha." A balance of emphasis exists in the Eastern Church among all three. The Cross is not only the instrument of Christ's death. It is also the emblem of His Resurrection and of our salvation!


At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In brief, in Orthodoxy our emphasis is on the miracle and joy in Christ's Resurrection and not on his suffering" How very true.

At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Jesus never rose from the dead, then ours would be a dead religion. I thank God that Jesus did rise from the dead and that he offers the "abundant life." I'm looking forward to:

Resurrection Sunday
Dr BLT (c) 2007

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