As we enter into Greek [Christian] Orthodox Holy Week following the 40 days of fasting and prayer known as Great Lent, we become mindful of the passion of Christ during this very special and meaningful time of year.
Throughout this period of reflection, the discipline of abstaining from meat, fish, and dairy products strengthens the spirit and allows the heart and mind to focus on non-material things: the temptations of power, pride, and possessions. This process allows the faithful to travel the road Christ followed for 40 days and nights before being tempted by Satan.
Palm Sunday, symbolized by blessed palm crosses (left), welcomes Christ into Jerusalem and into our hearts. This day we share a meal of vegetables, legumes, beats, fish, and Skordalia (skor-da-liÁH) before entering a week of strict fasting.
But fasting isn’t the most important observance during this time. To quote a good friend and our priest, Rev. Father Elias Villis (Church of Our Saviour, Rye, NY), “It’s not necessarily what goes
into the mouth but rather what comes out of the mouth that is most important.” What good is it to fast and then gossip or be unkind?! Quoting another good friend and Pastoral Minister at our church, George Hazlaris, “Once we have changed our diet, we have to be careful to not be overfilling our stomachs.” Easier said than done…sometimes eating a meat-, fish- and dairy-free diet can be challenging but for our cookbook we came up with many creative ways to make Lenten (Vegan) dishes by adapting some of Kukla’s traditional ones.
Holy Thursday evening presents the reading of the 12 gospels that recant the Passion of Christ.
On Good Friday evening the candle-bearing faithful exit the church during the Lamentation service and join the procession following the priest and the flower-laden kouvouklion (casket) of Christ—a magnificent sight that draws the attention of everyone within viewing distance.
Holy Week comes to a climax Holy Saturday evening just before midnight when the priest and congregation gather outside the church (weather permitting). At midnight the church bells ring in celebration of the resurrection of the Lord and “Xristos Anesti!” (Christ is risen!) is proclaimed by the priest, then a resounding “Alithos Anesti!” (Truly He is risen!) is the enthusiastic response from the congregation. This joyous exchange is ensued by the singing of the hymns of Odes and Praises of the Resurrection before reentering the church. After services, traditional Magiritsa (lamb’s-head soup), Avgolemono (egg-lemon soup), feta cheese, olives, and Tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) with red-dyed eggs (representing the blood of Christ and the Resurrection or rebirth), are served in the church’s hall. Some churches serve a full Pascha meal!
Pascha [Easter] Celebration
Following the fasting comes the rejoicing and feasting on Pascha Sunday.
In lieu of a liturgy, we have a late morning Agape (Love) church service (during which the Gospel according to John is read in various languages)…that feeds the spirit!
At home, the scent of oregano-lemon roasted lamb and potatoes fills the air…and feeds the anxious belly, along with Tzatziki (cucumber-yogurt dip), Spanakopita (spinach pie) and Galaktomboureko (citrus-custard pita). A suitable celebration and a meal worth the wait!
Next week we’ll bring you photos of Holy Week church services and our Pascha banquet. Check us out on Pinterest for more photos of our foods!
To our followers, Greek family, and friends observing Pascha/Easter, we wish you Kali Anastasi! (Joyful Resurrection!)
See you next Monday!
Kali oreksi! Good appetite!
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
© Copyright Palm Sunday photo courtesy of Church of Our Saviour, Rye, NY
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