The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 21, 2006

Easter blessings: Orthodox Christians to celebrate resurrection

Orthodox Christians have spent this past week preparing for Easter celebrations today and Sunday.

“The Orthodox church is unique among Christians with the effort it uses to maintain the intensity of Holy Week,” said the Very Rev. George Johnson, pastor of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, 427 First St., Conemaugh.

To explain the many Orthodox services and fasting, Johnson went back to Holy Thursday when a vigil service was held and the 12 Passion Gospels were read.

Great and Holy Friday was a strict fast day in which nothing was eaten until after a vespers service held in the late afternoon.

While an earlier service spoke of Christ’s passion and death, a vigil service involved meditations on Christ’s burial in the tomb.

“In the keeping of Holy Week, an effort is made to watch and wait, for we don’t know the hour the Lord may come again,” Johnson said. “Everything else stops, and we’re given over to the Gospel.”

Today, Holy Saturday, embodies the idea that Christ was God and man and was in the tomb.

“At the same time, he descended into hell,” Johnson said. “Jesus endures death, that is the human nature, but as God he is the life giver.”

Tonight, Orthodox services will celebrate life with a Paschal procession.

“Life is movement, and the Christian walks behind the cross,” Johnson said. “This is so significant because the night is brighter than any day.”

As the fact that Christ is risen is celebrated, fasting turns into feasting.

“As we keep Lent and Holy Week, Easter is a fulfilled effort,” Johnson said. “With our Easter joy, we enter into the joy of the Lord. Easter is not a one-day observance.”

Johnson said that the original word for Easter, Pascha, is translated from Hebrew into Greek.

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