Happy Easter from Athens!

Today is Easter Monday in Greece and it’s 2nd May! Confused? Wasn’t Easter five weeks ago?

Phil Jenkins | 15:07, 02 May 2016 

Easter will fall on the same date next year in both traditions – 16th April.

Well "yes" and "no."  This is because since 1582 the Western European churches adopted the Gregorian calendar whilst the Eastern Orthodox churches retained the Julian calendar. This has meant that the date on which Easter is celebrated is different in the two traditions. This year the difference is the greatest in can be – five weeks. By a strange coincidence of menology Easter will fall on the same date next year in both traditions – 16th April. But this is a coincidence which will not be repeated again until the year 2025!

Of course there is no absolutely right or wrong date for celebrating Easter but on balance the Orthodox Church seems to be more logical and biblical. In their calculation the Orthodox church applies a formula so that Easter always falls after Passover, since the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus took place after he entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Whereas in the Western Church, Easter sometimes precedes Passover by weeks and is calculated to fall "on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox." So that's clear then! 

Whatever the arguments are on either side of the debate I must say I thoroughly enjoyed singing all those great Easter hymns and songs again last Sunday. And Paul reminds us in Colossians that we are free in Christ from human rules and regulations: "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."

The reality is that every Sunday is the Lord's Day

The reality is that every Sunday is the Lord's Day – Resurrection Day – when we gather to celebrate the victory Jesus has won for us through his death and resurrection. Maybe the Orthodox tradition also has it right in that Easter is the biggest and most significant feast of the year. It is quite amazing to see flashed up between the usual adverts on national television channels the simple message: Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! - Christ is risen!

It is estimated that over 80% of the Greek population take part in the religious celebrations of Easter. On Easter Saturday people begin to gather in churches and town squares from about 11.30 pm onwards waiting for Easter Day to begin. Many carry white candles which are lit at midnight when the church bells ring out and the priests conclude their liturgy with the joyful announcement – Christ is risen! The candles that have been lit in church are carried home and burn through the night to symbolize the Light which has triumphed over the darkness of death.

Admittedly much of the celebration is culturally based these days and our prayer is that the ritual will become reality in the lives of so many more Greek people. But even as ritual goes, if I had to choose between Easter candles or Easter bunnies I know which one I would prefer! Later on Easter Sunday we joined in the celebrations with the roasting of the Easter lamb. A whole lamb is roasted outdoors over a charcoal fire and served with traditional Greek salads and desserts to which family, friends and neighbours are invited. As ever, an unhurried meal dining alfresco on a warm afternoon is a wonderful opportunity to share with your guests the real reason for the celebrations! Of course, you don't have to wait for Easter to do that – as long as you've got the weather! Happy Easter!


Document Actions