I thought I might get your attention with the title of tonight’s post. In English, if you are Christian, you have heard it many times on Easter morning, but in the Greek, it sounds little different. However, the greeting remains the same and is translated “Christ is Risen!” So why are we going to the Greek this evening? Well, that’s because today was the Easter celebration of the Greek Orthodox Church, one week after the Easter celebration for the Protestant and Catholic faiths – the other two branches of Christianity in the world.
While the Catholic and Protestant, as well as independent Christian and Baptist, denominations celebrated last week, the Greek Orthodox church uses a calendar that differs slightly from the calendar that other Christian denominations use. This can get confusing. That’s because the Julian calendar divides the year into 12 months and considers a year of about 365.25 days. However, this isn’t really the case so leap years were added to try and keep the calendar more accurate. The Julian calendar, started by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C., was in use for almost 1600 years before modifications were made that helped with its accuracy.
In 1582, Pope Gregory made corrections to the calendar and many countries eventually switched over to the new system. However, some branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church still use the Julian calendar, which has itself been revised, to determine major feast days, including Easter. Thus, this year there is a seven day difference for Easter between the other branches of Christianity and the Greek Orthodox Church.
Aside from the date differences, Easter takes on an especially celebratory tone in the Greek Orthodox Church. Holy Saturday services are held with an aura of darkness right before midnight and the first lights of candles are evident right after midnight. This represents the light of Christ in the world and for those of you who may be interested, Easter eggs are usually all red – not the pastel colors we generally associate with Easter. That’s because the egg has become synonymous with the tomb of Christ and the red color is symbolic of His blood.
Other rituals in the church include confession, traditionally a little different from Catholic confession, fasting and prayer take on a more important role during the season of Lent and the choice of lamb as the traditional Easter meal – symbolizing Jesus as the Lamb of God. Traditionally, icons and other works of art are prevalent in the sanctuary and the churches are magnificent in their decor. I remember, as a boy, touring a Greek Orthodox Church and being awed by the beauty of the place.
Several of my friends are Greek Orthodox so it is rather nice to have them wish me a Happy Easter last week while I returned the greeting this morning to them. And while we have our own special ways of worshipping the Lord, we are all Christians and hold, for all intents and purposes, the same core beliefs in our theology about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit.
Our verse for the evening comes from the book of Mark. After all, Easter is about the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day. Mark tells us that a young man dressed in white addressed Mary Magdalene and, in Mark 16:6, we are told that he said to her, “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
My encouragement tonight is that Jesus wants us to know that He is alive and well and in Heaven. The Holy Spirit lives in each believer and God the Father is still on the throne. My prayer is that we will continue to live in a posture of humility and worship throughout the year, not just during the days surrounding Easter, whether it be the Orthodox date or the earlier day of celebration last week. After all, Christo Anesti! He is Risen, Indeed! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…