In the history of the world, the three most important words could arguably be "Christ is Risen!" Those three words carry the hope of eternal life for ALL men, women and children. If Christ has risen, so may we someday. Jesus Christ suffered the pain of all our sorrows and sins in Gethsemane so that we may progress in this life (through repentance and forgiveness) and ultimately overcome; we will overcome our physical death to live a joyful eternal life.
Our Redeemer's sacrifice and resurrection, including the gift of his Atonement, can give us cause to rejoice and feel reverent for His sacrifice: the greatest gift of all. Preparing for Easter ahead of time can help us remember Christ's gift, so that our rejoicing may be more complete and sincere.
I like the tradition among faithful Greek families and friends who greet each other at Easter time by saying, "Christos Anesti!" (Christ is Risen!). Their response to each other is, "Alethos Anesti!" (Truly He is Risen!). This joyful greeting and response usually begin on Easter Sunday after the priest passes the Eternal Flame (the light of the resurrection) to the candles of those nearest him...continuing from person to person until
This greeting, "Christos Anesti!" continues for the following week. My nephew's mother-in-law is Greek and sustains some Greek religious traditions, although she is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), and I learned about this religious tradition from them. I am also a Mormon and these traditions inspire me to think even more deeply about the days leading up to Easter.
Other symbolic Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations create a path of PREPARATION, REVERENCE and REJOICING. The three days leading up to Easter offer a thoughtful approach to remembering Christ's sacrifice. These traditions have touched me deeply. Very briefly, the most important days leading up to Easter Sunday are called:
Holy (or Great) Thursday
Holy (or Great) Friday)
Holy (or Great) Saturday
PREPARATION: Holy Thursday begins the Easter preparations. Easter eggs are dyed a deep crimson red, and the traditional Easter bread, tsoureki, is baked. This is the day remembered for the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus. The deep red of the crimson eggs symbolizes the redeeming blood of Christ our Savior. And the egg represents new life waiting to come forth from the egg shell's "tomb"; victory over death.
REVERENCE: Holy Friday is the holiest day of the week ~ a day of mourning. No cooking is done and meals are very simple. Often, women and children will carry flowers to the church.
REJOICING: Holy Saturday is the day the Eternal Flame is brought to Greece on a military jet. The flame is distributed among the priests who wait to take it to their local churches. That night at midnight Mass, the flame is shared from person to person by candlelight, as a reminder of the eternal light of the Resurrection of our Savior.
This is a short description of these beautiful traditions, and they present a lovely lesson on the preparation, reverence, and rejoicing that many people participate in at Easter time as a way to remember that our Reedemer, Jesus Christ is, indeed, RISEN.
Christos Anesti !