Celebrated on the first Sunday after the Spring Equinox after Passover
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
The celebration of Pascha (called "Easter Sunday" in the West) in the Orthodox Church is not merely a historical re-enactment of Christ's Resurrection as narrated in the gospels. It is not a dramatic presentation of "the first Easter morning," and there is no "sunrise service", since the Paschal Matins and Liturgy are celebrated together in the first dark hours of the first day of the week in order to give men the experience of the new creation of the world, and to allow them to enter mystically into the New Jerusalem which shines eternally with the glorious Light of Christ!
The Church teaches that while the body of Christ rested in the tomb on the Sabbath (the day after the Crucifixion), His soul descended into Hades. Prior to the Incarnation, the gates of paradise were closed to mankind. Therefore Hades, not to be confused with Hell, was the place where the souls of all went upon death. It was neither a place of reward, nor a place of punishment. It had been likened to "Death's prison", where the souls of both the just and the sinners were confined. Since Christ actually died upon the Cross, Death claimed His Soul for Hades. However, Hades received more than it expected it received the Giver of Life, who destroyed the power of Hades. The icon of the Resurrection portrays this concept.
Christ, the central figure of the icon, is robed in white to show His divinity. The aureole (elongated halo) around Him also symbolizes this brilliant Light. At His feet are the demolished brass gates of Hades, with their broken keys and locks. Christ holds the hands of Adam and Eve, depicted to his right and left, as he pulls them from their tombs. Adam is in old man, recalled to his primordial innocence; Eve is also depicted as elderly, and is set free from her sin in Eden by the Incarnation. Behind Christ are aligned the Righteous of the Old Testament (to the left, including Solomon and David) and the New Testament (to the right, including John the Baptist and Joseph the Guardian).
Adapted from The Icon Book by Boojamra, Essey, McLuckie & Matusiak.
|Attend as many of the Holy Week services as you are able,
to prepare for Pascha, including Holy Unction (Wednesday) and
Royal Hours and the Taking Down from the Cross on Holy Friday.
Depending on the ages and attention spans of your children, you
may want to attend the reading of the Passion Gospels on Holy
||Pascha is a very special time for children. They should experience
this night like no other! You can help them by waking them very
early on Holy Saturday morning (5 AM) then putting them to bed
at 4 or 5 PM; re-wake them at 10 PM to prepare for the Paschal
Matins and Liturgy.
||Include the children in your preparations of the Pascha basket, if this is
part of your ethnic tradition,
which you will take to be blessed after services.
||Bring an icon of the from home for them to carry in the Paschal
||Families with especially young children (who cannot attend
the midnight Matins/Liturgy) should attend the short Paschal Vespers
on Sunday Morning; many parishes perform food blessings following
this service as well.
||Use the Paschal greeting for Pascha and the 40-day afterfeast:
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
||"Collect" versions of the Paschal troparion: as
a family, learn to sing in Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Romanian,
You did descend into the tomb, O Immortal One, You did destroy the power of death! In victory did you arise, O Christ our God, proclaiming "Rejoice" to the myrrh-bearing women, granting peace to your apostles, and bestowing Resurrection on the fallen.
The Angel cried unto her, who is full of grace:
Hail, O Pure Virgin! And again I say: Hail! Thy Son is risen from three days' sojourn in the tomb! And with Himself, has raised the dead! Rejoice, all you people!
Shine, shine, shine! Shine, New Jerusalem! For the Glory of the Lord has shown on you! Exult and be glad, O Zion! Be Radiant, O Theotokos, in the Resurrection of your Son!
Orthodox Christians throughout the world greet one another with the following expressions during the forty-day period from Pascha to Ascension:
© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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